Rand Paul Spearheads Effort to Block Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced a joint resolution to block some $650 million in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the need to end U.S. support for the kingdom’s bloody proxy war in Yemen.

Paul was joined by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a similar resolution in the House earlier this month.

The lawmakers seek to block the sale of some $650 million in weapons to the Saudis, including 280 air-to-air missiles and 596 missile launchers, among other weapons and associated training and support.

“A message needs to be sent to Saudi Arabia that we don’t approve of their war with Yemen,” Paul said when announcing the resolution on Nov. 18. “By participating in this sale, we would not only be rewarding reprehensible behavior, but also exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

“The war in Yemen is a humanitarian tragedy, and U.S. participation in this war remains undeclared by Congress,” Lee said.

The humanitarian crisis referred to by Paul and Lee is what many describe as a proxy war in Yemen between Iranian-backed Houthis and a Saudi-supported coalition of Arabs.

United States support for the Saudi side of the conflict began in March 2015, when then-National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan announced that the United States would start providing logistical and intelligence support to Saudi-led military operations.

According to reports from the time, Obama backing the Saudis in Yemen was designed to “placate the Saudis,” who were furious about the Iran deal being negotiated at the time.

Some national security officials have said the United States must continue to support the Saudis to counter Iranian influence in the region.

But critics say the war has been long and indeterminate, resulting in more than 230,000 dead Yemenis, with the United Nations declaring the matter a humanitarian crisis. Others have pointed out that U.S. weapons sold to the Saudis for the conflict have ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda fighters.

In February, Biden announced that his administration would halt “offensive” aid to the Saudis.

However, Vox reported in April that Americans are still servicing the Saudi air force—a crucial element of the country being able to maintain its blockade on Yemen. The U.S. government also approved a $500 million helicopter maintenance deal for the Saudis in September.

This latest $650 million sale is purported to be for defensive weaponry, but others have suggested that the weapons can be used to support Saudi’s starvation-inducing blockade of Yemen.

“With 75 percent of Yemeni children facing acute malnutrition largely as a result of the war, there is no excuse for selling more weapons to the Saudi regime,” said a letter earlier this month from Just Foreign Policy. “The U.S. should instead use its leverage over the Saudi military to force an end to the blockade, as over 100 Senators and House members have urged.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also considering a provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would end American support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the Yemen conflict. The House approved this provision, and the NDAA is currently being considered by the Senate.

The drive to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war has largely been steered by Democrats, with only 11 Republicans backing the House NDAA provision.

Along with Paul and Lee’s efforts in the Senate, the House NDAA provision was supported by conservative Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Lauren Boebart (R-Colo.), Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Ken Silva

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Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cybersecurity, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. Contact him at ken.silva@epochtimes.us

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