Congress Urges Trump To Halt $110 Billion Arms Deal With Saudi Arabia
As Xongressional outrage mounts against U.S. ally Saudi Arabia following the alleged Saudi conspiracy to kidnap and murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calls to enact sanctions and end the multi-billion dollar arms deal with Riyadh have been met with significant resistance from President Donald Trump.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish government officials claim they have recordings that prove the journalist was murdered and possibly dismembered while visiting the consulate in order to get divorce papers approved.
This week, a group of 22 senators urged President Trump to open up an investigation into the journalist’s disappearance, and called for sanctions to be placed on the people responsible for the crime.
Senators like Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have announced their intention to block the advancement of the proposed $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi government.
The Senators had tried and failed to block the initial arms proposal last year by four votes, but they believe they muster the votes now.
“I don’t think that a military sale could pass the Senate today. I don’t think that it could pass the House,” said Murphy.
The Senators have also urged the president to invoke sanctions against those responsible by invoking the 2016 Magnitsky Act.
The Magnitsky Act, which allows the president to issue sanctions against persons found to have orchestrated extra-judicial killings of individuals promoting human rights, was previously used to freeze the assets of several leading Russian billionaires for their role in the murder of a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
“[It] feels like to me is Saudi Arabia is responsible, and that [Khashoggi] is dead,” Corker said. “It’s possible that some other country was involved. But everything points to Saudi Arabia today.”
President Trump has shown reluctance to put a hold on the deal with the Saudis, claiming that it would hurt American industry and strengthen the country’s rivals.
“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States. Because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China, or someplace else. So I think there are other ways. If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation,” Trump said Thursday.
Khashoggi was forced to flee Saudi Arabia in 2017 after facing backlash for his harsh critique of the Saudi government. He had been living in the United States, and was a frequent Washington Post contributor.
Khashoggi has been intensely critical of the Riyadh’s gruesome war in Yemen, with much of his criticism being directed towards Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
President Trump and members of his administration including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh in 2017 to initiate the first steps in a $110 billion arms deal.
By selling the advanced American weaponry the Trump administration hoped to curb Iranian influence in the volatile region by aiding its long standing ally.
Members of the Obama administration had held talks with the Middle Eastern power in 2016 in order to arrange the sale of $115 billion dollars worth of military equipment including warships, helicopters and military hardware.
But following a series of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen that killed a number of people at a civilian funeral, the Obama administration decided to review the deal, and struck many part of the deal outright.
Turkish officials claim that if allowed into the consulate, they would be able to definitively prove Saudi responsibility. Following those claims, the Saudi government rescinded its previous offer to have Turkish investigators search the consulate.
Members of the U.S. intelligence community have stated that they intercepted communications that link Crown Prince bin Salman to a plan to lure Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia.
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