Senator Rand Paul Announces Opposition to Saudi Arms Sale

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has announced his opposition to a proposed arms package for Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with Breitbart News conducted on May 23, 2017 and released the following day, Senator Paul highlighted his opposition to a planned arms sale to Saudi Arabia worth around $110 billion. His interview came the same day an aide told CNN that he would oppose the sale.

W4T previously reported Senator Paul’s intentions earlier this week.

The Senator told Breitbart News,

“There’s an arms export legislation from the 1970s and it gives the power to one senator to ask for a vote if they object to an arms sale. I think that by selling Saudi Arabia more arms, we further the arms race. We encourage more arms to be bought on both sides of the arms race. I think that there’s evidence that Saudi Arabia has been involved with terrorism. One of the leaked emails from Hillary Clinton was her saying that ‘my goodness, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding ISIS in Syria—we need to do something to get them to quit funding these radical groups. So there’s a lot of evidence. There’s even evidence going back to 9/11. Sen. Graham—Bob Graham—said that he thought that there was from the 28 pages and other evidence that there was a great deal of evidence pointing to Saudi Arabia’s government actually being involved in 9/11.”

Riyadh and Doha have previously denied accusations of  supporting terror groups. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir dismissed such claims as “preposterous” last year, adding that Saudi Arabia is in the “forefront of fighting extremism and terrorism in the region, and in the world.”

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry has previously released statements noting, “Qatar does not support extremist groups, including ISIS, in any way. We are repelled by their views, their violent methods and their ambitions.”

Senator Paul continued,

“In the Middle East, everybody is arming up. Israel has nuclear weapons, and Israel has hundreds if not thousands of ballistic missiles. Iran has ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabia has ballistic missiles. But as we give more weapons to Saudi Arabia, the reaction from both Israel and Iran is ‘well, gosh, if Saudi Arabia has more, maybe we need more?’ It ratchets up. Saudi Arabia already has weapons that they point at Tehran and Tel Aviv. They actually have Chinese missiles that you can see from satellite photos aimed at Tel Aviv and pointed at Tehran. I don’t know—I just don’t think we need to encourage it. The place is such a stinking mess over there. They’ve been killing each other for a thousand years. I just don’t think feeding their fury with more weapons is a good idea.”

Israel has long been suspected of possessing nuclear missiles; the country’s policy is ambiguous, generally stating that Israel would not be the first country to introduce nuclear missiles into the region while neither confirming nor denying if it had in fact produced any.

Senator Paul praised U.S. President Donald Trump’s determination to work with Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism. He said, “I think it is a good idea that he’s telling and encouraging the people who live there to do something about ISIS, if Saudi Arabia would do something about it.”

Alongside his criticism of the arms sale, Senator Paul took aim at the situation in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a military campaign against Ansar Allah, a rebel group. Senator Paul accused Saudi Arabia of “indiscriminately bombing” in its campaign, adding that he was concerned “they’ll use some of our weapons to bomb civilians.”

Rights groups have criticized Saudi Arabia for its role in the Yemen war and put pressure on arms suppliers to the kingdom, particularly as nearly 19 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Similar concerns under President Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, led the Administration to put a hold on the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. The Trump Administration lifted that hold earlier this year.

Riyadh denies allegations against its military conducts indiscriminate bombing in Yemen. The kingdom contends that its military operates with respect for international law.

This past weekend, the Trump Administration announced the proposed arms deal, which includes tanks, armored vehicles, warships, missile systems, and helicopters.

The U.S. Congress has the ability to review arms sales, but blocking a sale outright is rare. Senator Paul led an effort last year to stop a sale of M1A2 main battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, but that effort later failed.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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