To block a $1.15 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia that included 153 Abrams tanks.
Lee and Murphy lamented the substantial increase in overall arms sales to Saudi Arabia under the Obama administration.
“We’re talking about a 6- to 8-fold increase in the dollar amount of arms sold to Saudi Arabia in the Obama administration versus the Bush administration,” Murphy said, during a discussion on U.S-Saudi Arabia relations held by the Center for the National Interest.
“We should recognize as a baseline fact that we are selling more and giving them more than ever before and so to argue that there should be some scaling back or pause on arms sales is at some level just a recognition that the pace here is very different than ever before.”
Murphy said the U.S. government should be “sending signals” to Saudi Arabia that its support for them is “conditional.”
“They have asked for our help in fighting the Houthis. It is not in our national interest to answer that call. So it makes sense for us to tell them we are not going to be with them this time,” he said. “There will be plenty of other moments where we will be with the Saudis. This is an instance in which it may be in their interest to fight this war inside Yemen. It is not in our interest.”
Paul said he is in disbelief that the U.S. has sold $100 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia over the last year 8 years.
“I don’t think they have a shortage of weaponry in what they have gotten from us,” he said.
Murphy said now is the time to question the strength of the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia.
“I think we have largely turned the other way and allowed for the Saudis to create a version of Islam, which has become the building blocks for the very groups we are fighting today,” he said. “We have pled with them, we have asked them to stop and the evidence suggests they have not. Over the course of the last year and a half, we have begged them to be better at targeting. We told them the targets not to hit and they have not listened.”
In total, 14 of the 19 hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 were Saudi citizens. The FBI connected the hijackers to Al-Qaeda, which was led by Osama Bin Laden at the time. In response to the attack, the Bush administration launched a war in Afghanistan to dismantle the Al-Qaeda network and later went to war in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction. Since then, many lawmakers pushed for the release of the 28 missing pages of the 9/11 Commission Report, which the Obama administration eventually made public this year. Based on the content of the pages, some suspect that members of the Saudi government were connected in some way to the hijackers, given the complexity of the attack and the support needed to carry it out.
According to the State Department’s most recent report on human rights practices in Saudi Arabia, human rights activists have criticized the Saudi government’s “Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist-Financing (the CT law)” for not going far enough.
“For the first time, the law officially defines and criminalizes terrorism and terrorist financing in the criminal code. The legal definition of terrorism, however, is extremely broad, defining a terrorist crime (in part) as ‘any act…intended to disturb the public order of the state…or insult the reputation of the state or its position,’” the report read. “Saudi human rights activists and international human rights organizations criticized the law for its vague definition of terrorism and complained that the government could use it to prosecute peaceful dissidents for ‘insulting the state.’”
The State Department report also revealed that “violence against women; trafficking in persons; and discrimination based on gender, religion, sect, race, and ethnicity, as well as a lack of equal rights for children and noncitizen workers were common” in the country.
Paul has urged Saudi Arabia to address the refugee crisis in Yemen and Syria caused by the ongoing wars in those countries.
“I think Saudi Arabia should be taking refugees from Syria as well as Yemen,” he said.
According to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain “have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” If the U.S. government wants Saudi Arabia to change its ways with regards to human rights and its anti-terrorism efforts, continuing the arms sales is not going to help. For starters, the U.S. government should withhold the $1.15 billion arms sale until Saudi Arabia offers resettlement areas for more Syrian refugees and issues a detailed report to U.S. officials that outlines the steps it is taking to stop terrorist recruiting in their country.
“Today, a growing coalition of legislators refused to sit idly by while the President inserts America into another war and an escalating arms race in an unstable region without congressional authorization or debate,” said Paul after the Senate rejected the effort to stop the arms sale. “As violent jihadists attack the West, the Saudis continue to fund madrassas that preach hatred and violence against the West. The Founders did not entrust the power to initiate war to the legislature lightly. Today does not mark an end, but an important next step in reclaiming Congress’ rightful constitutional role in foreign policy.”