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“Slap in Congress’ Face”: Trump ready to bypass Congress to execute Saudi arms trade

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Donald Trump’s administration is planning to bypass Congress to allow the sale of $7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are involved in a bloody war in Yemen, The New York Times reported Thursday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several State Department appointees are pushing the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, which are currently on hold.

Reports of the plan have angered politicians on both sides of the aisle, who are frustrated by the government’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in the ongoing Yemen war. Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called invoking the provision a “slap in Congress’s face.”

Senator Chris Murphy, a US Democrat spoke to Al Jazeera after the administration office provided the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an “informal notice” of President Trump’s decision.

“I have deep concerns about how our Gulf partners have conducted the war in Yemen, including with US weapons, some of which have reportedly ended up in the wrong hands in Yemen,” he said in a statement.

The provision could be invoked within the next few days, the Times said, citing current and former officials, as well as legislators familiar with the plan. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday: “We do not comment to confirm or deny potential arms sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified.”

Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy took to Twitter to denounce the potential move, which would allow Trump to claim the sale constitutes an emergency, thereby preventing Congress from voting against it.

Read more: US-Saudi arms deal: Is this setting the stage for a Saudi-Iranian…

It’s “a loophole that would allow any President to claim any number of Middle East crises as an ’emergency’ and then Congress will never ever be able to object to an arms sale again,” he said on Twitter. He added that if there is an emergency, then it is a “humanitarian emergency caused by the bombs we sell the Saudis.”

The war in Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the World Health Organization estimating that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the country since March 2015, but rights groups say the toll could be far higher.

Congress dealt Trump a harsh rebuke in March with a historic bipartisan resolution that would have curtailed the president’s war-making powers and ended American support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Senator Chris Murphy stated, “My guess is that if they are declaring an emergency it has to do with Iran but there is no new emergency inside Yemen, there is no new emergency why Saudi Arabia needs precision-guided missiles.”

Trump vetoed the measure in April, the second such move of his presidency. The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia risks further inflaming the already-tense relations between the US and Iran, which views Riyadh as one of its main rivals.

Why does KSA Need Precision-Guided Missiles?

Senator Chris Murphy, a US Democrat spoke to Al Jazeera after the administration office provided the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an “informal notice” of President Trump’s decision. Senator Murphy said, “I am expecting that the administration is going to notice a major arms sale through emergency powers.”

Murphy further added that if the US is declaring an emergency, it is most likely to curb Iranian influence given the recent rise of US-Iran tensions in the Gulf after Trump’s withdrawal from the historic 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to put a hold on nuclear proliferation in exchange for relaxed economic sanctions.

Read more: US selling arms to Saudi Arab’s enemies

Senator Chris Murphy stated, “My guess is that if they are declaring an emergency it has to do with Iran but there is no new emergency inside Yemen, there is no new emergency why Saudi Arabia needs precision-guided missiles.”

Senator Bob Menendez, a leading Democrat serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had previously blocked missile trades between the US, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, warned the administration to avoid making a “terrible mistake”.

Senator Menendez, in a statement, stated he is committed to “pursue all appropriate legislative and other means to nullify” the missile trade. He publically warned US, weapon manufacturers of criminal proceedings and civil penalties, if they chose to export their weapons under “potentially invalid licenses”.

Read more: Yemen war challenges Saudi moral authority

Menendez referred the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as “one of the worst human rights abusers in the world”, and stated that “delivering deadly weapons to governments that clearly intend to misuse them” would undoubtedly be a blow to America’s global reputation.

AFP with additional input by GVS news desk.

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