Trump vetoes congressional effort to block Saudi arms sales

Administration approved $8.1bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia and UAE

US president Donald Trump: vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

US president Donald Trump: vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from bypassing Congress and selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1 billion arms sale to the two US allies in the Persian Gulf, which are enemies of Tehran.

But Mr Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way intended to bypass congressional review infuriated politicians.

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate banded together to introduce resolutions to block the weapons sale in what was viewed as a bipartisan pushback to Mr Trump’s foreign policy.

The White House had argued that stopping the sale would send a signal that the United States does not stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them are increasing.

The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led the effort, but he had support from two of Mr Trump’s Republican allies in Congress: Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul.

Congress

Anger has been mounting in Congress over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fuelled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen — a military campaign the US is assisting — and the killing of US-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.

Mr Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons further inflamed the tensions.

“The president’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

It did not appear that politicians opposed to the sale had enough votes to override Mr Trump’s veto.

Last month, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee grilled State Department officials about the sale.

Chairman Eliot Engel said it was a “slap in the face” to Congress and accused the Trump administration of using threats from Iran as a “convenient excuse” to push through the sale.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, Mr Engel said: “The president’s veto sends a grim message that America’s foreign policy is no longer rooted in our core values — namely a respect for human rights — and that he views Congress not as a coequal branch of government, but an irritant to be avoided or ignored.” – AP