Despite Saudi Arabia’s importance as a partner in the Middle East, the U.S. Democratic Representative of Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, introduced a joint resolution to block and ban the sale of missiles and other weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since filing her legislation on November 12th, three other senators, Rand Paul (R-KY.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) have put together a Bipartisan effort to file their own joint resolution with the aim of preventing another humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
The Saudi arms deal valued at $650 million, announced by the Biden Administration on November 4th, included the sale of 280 air-to-air, 596 missile launchers, and other support equipment and services. This is the first major arms deal made with Saudi Arabia since the Biden Administration has been in office. Raytheon Technologies produced the missiles being sold.
“As the Saudi government continues to wage its devastating war in Yemen and repress its own people, we should not be rewarding them with more arms sales,” Sanders said in a statement regarding the arms deal.
If passed through the Senate, it will prohibit the sale of $650 missiles and other services and systems being sold to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We should never be selling human rights abusers weapons, but we certainly should not be doing so in the midst of a humanitarian crisis they are responsible for. Congress has the authority to stop these sales, and we must exercise that power,” Omar said.
“It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery,”
President Joe Biden publicized the end of US support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, immediately following the previous administration’s arms deal and bonhomous relationship with Riyadh. For this reason, some lawmakers were surprised to learn about the $650 million deal made between the U.S and Saudi Arabia.
According to the Biden Administration, in defense of the sale, they continue to be “fully consistent with the administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen.” Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Program, has asserted this sale consisted mainly of defensive weapon systems. The missiles were sold to make certain “Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks,” he said.
Some have argued these weapons could be used as both defensive and offensive in a time of war. The U.S. has often refused to approve military sales to Saudi Arabia without a guarantee its weapons would not be used to harm or kill any civilians.
Approval from the State Department does not suggest the contract for this deal has been signed or that an agreement has been reached between the two parties.