Saudi Arabia says halt in arms sales will embolden Iran

Tribunal

The US Senate has voted to block the sale of billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, striking a blow to President Donald Trump.

Backers of the resolutions said they thought the measures had a good chance of passing both the Senate and House, but acknowledged the difficulty of garnering the two-thirds support to override an expected veto from Trump.

There has been increasing frustration with Saudi Arabia in Congress for months, over the devastating human toll of the air campaign in Yemen it is waging with the UAE.

While the court's decision does not mean Britain must immediately halt arms exports, it does mean that there is a stay on the granting of next arms export licences to Saudi Arabia - Britain's richest Arab ally.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., departs the chamber after appealing for lawmakers to vote against more than a dozen resolutions aimed at blocking the Trump administration's sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 20, 2019. After clearing the Senate, the resolutions still need to be approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives before reaching the president's desk.

Mr Trump bypassed Congress last month by invoking a rarely used aspect of federal law.

Just hours before the vote, Iran shot down a United States military drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Still the demonstration is a symbolic showing of the opposition - including from within Trump's own party - to the administration's relationship to Saudi Arabia, following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi past year.

A United Nations rights investigator said on Wednesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials should be investigated over the Khashoggi's murder.

Saudi agents killed the journalist inside the country's consulate in Istanbul, but Saudi authorities insist they were not acting on Prince Mohammed's orders.

The Court of Appeal stressed that Thursday's decision "does not mean that licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended".

A court in London ruled that Britain had acted unlawfully in the way it granted export licences for arms exports to the kingdom.

Despite Trump's veto threat, members of Congress said they expect some Saudi-related legislation would come into effect this year.

This was echoed by Republican Senator Jim Risch, who said that "to reject these sales at this time and under these circumstances is to reward recent Iranian aggression and to encourage further Iranian escalation". Seven Republicans joined Democrats on the first two votes, while five Republicans joined Democrats on the second vote, Politico reported. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told his fellow lawmakers that passing these resolutions would not only send a strong message to the Trump administration but set an important precedent going forward.

"This is a power grab, pure and simple", he said of Mr Trump's attempts to push the deal through. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana.

"My relationship with Saudi Arabia is forever changed", he said, accusing Riyadh of taking their relationship with the U.S.

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