Members of the United States Senate voted 71 to 27 to clear the way for military equipment sales to Saudi Arabia. The value of the sale is pegged at $1.15 billion. Tanks are part of the package. Many members of Congress have harshly criticized Saudi Arabia for its military activities in Yemen. Conventional US policy has always regarded the kingdom as an important ally in the Middle East. If the vote went the other way, the sale would not have happened at all.
The convincing win halted the effort led by Rand Paul and Chris Murphy of the Republican Party and Democratic Party respectively. They expressed the concern that the Saudis have played a dubious role during the 18 month duration war in Yemen. There were concerns that such an acquisition would fuel a regional arms race.
An announcement by the Pentagon on August 9 revealed that an approval was given by the State Department to sell a large number of weapons to the Saudis. The list of military hardware included 130 Abrams made battle tanks, 20 recovery vehicles bristling with armor and other ancillary equipment. General Dynamics Corp would be principal contractor of this sale as per Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Criticism of the deal
Opponents of the deal like Murphy and Paul were extremely critical of the Saudi Government at the time of the debate prior to the vote. They mentioned a number of issues, including the country’s questionable human rights record, its activities in Yemen and the kingdom’s global support for a conservative strain of Islam. Murphy said that if the United States was serious about stopping extremists, then it must recognize that the form of Islam exported by Saudi Arabia is a component of the problem.
This criticism follows prior to the expectation that lawmakers will back another anti-Saudi measure. It is a bill which will permit lawsuits against the Saudi Government by relatives of September 11 attack victims. Although President Barack Obama is expected to veto that particular bill, leaders of the US Congress say that there is a chance that the veto will be overridden and the measure turned into law. The presidential veto can be overturned if two thirds of total Senators in both Senate and House go against the presidential decision. In Yemen, a place where Iranian backed Houthis are battling the Saudi led coalition, the former have accused the US of supporting the Saudis by providing them military firepower.