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Stop Arming Saudia Arabia: Four Reasons It's Plausible to Try

Wednesday, September 07, 2016 By Robert Naiman, Truthout | News Analysis
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President Barack Obama talks with Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, while walking to board Air Force One to travel to England, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016. (Stephen Crowley / The New York Times) President Barack Obama talks with Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, while walking to board Air Force One to travel to England, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 21, 2016. (Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

A key hurdle to engaging more people in obstructing the Administration's proposed arms deal with Saudi Arabia has been convincing them that it is politically plausible to try to do so.

Outside of the Pentagon-industrial complex, few would argue that sending more weapons to Saudi Arabia is an exemplary idea. In December, no less a validator than Farah Pandith of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was the first State Department special representative to Muslim communities, called for Saudi Arabia to face consequences if it did not stop promoting extremism.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don't agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia's support for 'radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.' He has called the Saudis 'the world's biggest funders of terrorism.'

The Arms Control Association says:

If the administration is sincere in its desire to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and leverage such sales in ways that encourage it to change its behavior, President Barack Obama should withdraw this sale and suspend delivery on those agreed earlier, rather than continue to reward Riyadh for its actions. Such steps would reinforce the importance of human rights and international law in US arms transfer decisions.

But the initial DC reaction to efforts to stop the deal was: "you can't beat General Dynamics." On August 11, when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said he would work with a bipartisan coalition to stop the Saudi arms deal, Foreign Policy said:

Still, stopping the deal is going to be an uphill battle. The main beneficiary of the deal is General Dynamics Land Systems, according to a statement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The firm is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a massive defense contractor that wields significant clout on Capitol Hill. That could make it hard for Paul to find the allies he would need in the House and Senate to permanently block the sale.

So, here are four key pieces of evidence that opposing the Saudi arms deal is not futile:

1. On August 17, the New York Times editorial board called for Congress to block the deal. Former Obama Administration official Bruce Riedel says the NYT editorial "got considerable attention in the royal family."

2. On June 16, 49% of the House, including 91% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans, voted to block the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

3. On August 31, it was reported that Textron, which had the contract to export cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, had announced it was getting out of the cluster bomb business, citing opposition in Congress to exporting the weapons to Saudi Arabia.

In a filing to regulators on Tuesday, Textron noted that the sale of its "sensor-fuzed weapon," or cluster bomb, requires executive branch and congressional approval. "The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals," the company said.

4. On August 29, 64 Members of the House sent a bipartisan letter to the Administration urging that the Saudi arms deal be postponed.

National and state petitions directed to Congress in opposition to the Saudi arms deal can be found here.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy and president of Truthout's board of directors. 

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Stop Arming Saudia Arabia: Four Reasons It's Plausible to Try

Wednesday, September 07, 2016 By Robert Naiman, Truthout | News Analysis
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

President Barack Obama talks with Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, while walking to board Air Force One to travel to England, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016. (Stephen Crowley / The New York Times) President Barack Obama talks with Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, while walking to board Air Force One to travel to England, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 21, 2016. (Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

A key hurdle to engaging more people in obstructing the Administration's proposed arms deal with Saudi Arabia has been convincing them that it is politically plausible to try to do so.

Outside of the Pentagon-industrial complex, few would argue that sending more weapons to Saudi Arabia is an exemplary idea. In December, no less a validator than Farah Pandith of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was the first State Department special representative to Muslim communities, called for Saudi Arabia to face consequences if it did not stop promoting extremism.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don't agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia's support for 'radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.' He has called the Saudis 'the world's biggest funders of terrorism.'

The Arms Control Association says:

If the administration is sincere in its desire to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and leverage such sales in ways that encourage it to change its behavior, President Barack Obama should withdraw this sale and suspend delivery on those agreed earlier, rather than continue to reward Riyadh for its actions. Such steps would reinforce the importance of human rights and international law in US arms transfer decisions.

But the initial DC reaction to efforts to stop the deal was: "you can't beat General Dynamics." On August 11, when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said he would work with a bipartisan coalition to stop the Saudi arms deal, Foreign Policy said:

Still, stopping the deal is going to be an uphill battle. The main beneficiary of the deal is General Dynamics Land Systems, according to a statement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The firm is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a massive defense contractor that wields significant clout on Capitol Hill. That could make it hard for Paul to find the allies he would need in the House and Senate to permanently block the sale.

So, here are four key pieces of evidence that opposing the Saudi arms deal is not futile:

1. On August 17, the New York Times editorial board called for Congress to block the deal. Former Obama Administration official Bruce Riedel says the NYT editorial "got considerable attention in the royal family."

2. On June 16, 49% of the House, including 91% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans, voted to block the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

3. On August 31, it was reported that Textron, which had the contract to export cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, had announced it was getting out of the cluster bomb business, citing opposition in Congress to exporting the weapons to Saudi Arabia.

In a filing to regulators on Tuesday, Textron noted that the sale of its "sensor-fuzed weapon," or cluster bomb, requires executive branch and congressional approval. "The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals," the company said.

4. On August 29, 64 Members of the House sent a bipartisan letter to the Administration urging that the Saudi arms deal be postponed.

National and state petitions directed to Congress in opposition to the Saudi arms deal can be found here.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy and president of Truthout's board of directors.