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House Foreign Affairs Committee expected to challenge Gulf arms sales

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House Foreign Affairs Committee expected to challenge Gulf arms sales

Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meet in 2018 to discuss arms sales
Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Today, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the sale of American arms to the Gulf.

Since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Istanbul’s Saudi consulate in 2018, the Committee has increased efforts to challenge the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which have used US-manufactured weapons against Yemeni civilians and reportedly transferred them to al-Qaeda-linked fighters. Additionally, expectations of a future global devaluation of oil have led many Democrat and Republican representatives to question Gulf states’ strategic utility to the US, reassuring them about their opposition to arms sales.

In May 2019, Congress passed a resolution blocking Gulf arms sales, yet, bypassing the resolution, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an $8 billion deal with Saudi Arabia as a measure to counter “Iranian aggression.” In response, Committee Chairman Eliot Engel called on General Steve Linick to investigate the matter. But Linick was fired in May 2020 before completing the investigation.

Expect the Committee to challenge the sale of arms to the UAE recently approved by President Trump in today’s hearing. However, considering the administration’s ability to bypass Congress—elevated by the current state of emergency’s further centralisation of power—the hearing is unlikely to influence policy change.

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