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Senate Votes to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Despite Trump’s Veto Threat

A man inspects a handgun at the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., April 28, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Senate voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from completing billions of dollars in planned weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Despite a threat from President Trump to veto the measure, it passed 53–45 with bipartisan support.

Ending sales now “would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing,” the White House said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has been the target of attacks by Iran-backed rebel forces, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to in May when he approved the weapons sales. Iranian regional aggression prompted the Pentagon to announce plans earlier this week to send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

Among the goods and services the administration has agreed to sell the Saudis are precision-guided munitions, aircraft-maintenance support, and various other bombs and ammunition. The sales would provide some weapons to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan as well.

Senator Bob Menendez sponsored the resolution, saying the civilian casualties in Yemen were a major reason for his opposition to the sales.

“These are bombs that we know have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen, patients in hospitals, children on school buses,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “For months upon months, this administration has failed to demonstrate how equipping the Saudis with more weapons would improve the Saudis’ respect for human rights in Yemen or advance America’s own values and national security interests.”

Meanwhile, Senator Jim Risch, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned against emboldening Iran’s aggression.

“To reject these sales at this time and under these circumstances is to reward recent Iranian aggression and to encourage further Iranian escalation,” the Idaho Republican said.

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