The last time the U.S. Senate leadership brought up a resolution to approve another round of arms sales to Saudi Arabia was June 2017, and it was nearly defeated– passing by a narrow 53 to 47 votes.
That’s because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has had his sights set on ending U.S. arms sales to the Gulf Kingdom since long before the shockingly brazen, premeditated murder this October, of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A permanent resident of the United States living in Virginia, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi embassy in Turkey where he was gruesomely tortured and killed by Saudi agents close to Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.2014 email from John Podesta to Hillary Clinton
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said:
“We don’t condone Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. But the kingdom is a powerful force for Mideast stability.”
It’s precisely because Rand Paul sees the Saudi kingdom as a force for instability in the Middle East, and the U.S. federal government’s alliance with Saudi Arabia as a risk to the American people, that he has quietly built up a bipartisan coalition of Senators who aren’t afraid to walk away from a bad deal.
Pompeo’s words in the Wall Street Journal are hard to reconcile with the leaked private emails of John Podesta to Hillary Clinton, Pompeo’s predecessor at the State Department, which included an unambiguous reference in 2014 to the State Department’s awareness of Saudi support for the jihadist militant group ISIL:
“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
A State Department diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2009 revealed the United States knew about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East back then too:
“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority…
More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources.”
The Associated Press reported in August of 2018 that the Saudi government– a Sunni Islamic Theocracy– has secretly been working with Al Qaeda in its war in Yemen against the Shi’a Muslim Houthis who had nearly stamped out Al Qaeda and ISIL as they overthrew the repressive Hadi regime in an Arab Spring uprising:
“A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns the militants had seized across Yemen and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.”
It’s surreal to say the least, that the administration of a U.S. president from New York City is continuing to align the United States with a coalition of forces in Yemen that includes Al Qaeda.
And while Donald Trump warned us that Hillary Clinton would be a war hawk in the Oval Office, and promised a stark departure from Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East, he has actually stepped up Barack Obama’s unprecedented campaign of drone missile strikes in Yemen, with a staggering human cost.
In a recent interview with Margaret Brennan on Face The Nation (CBS), Sen. Rand Paul says he now has a veto-proof majority to block any future rounds of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The $110 billion “arms deal” touted by President Trump after touring Saudi Arabia in 2017 is approved piecemeal over a number of years by the U.S. Senate with resolutions passed by unanimous consent (if no one objects, the resolution is passed).
But these are “privileged resolutions,” meaning any Senator can object to passing one by unanimous consent, and require every Senator to individually vote Yea or Nay– if it’s brought up by the Senate leadership, that is. Paul says they haven’t brought any new arms resolutions to the floor for approval because they know his tough on Saudi Arabia coalition has the votes to block it.