Senators seek to limit arms sales to Saudis

Senators seek to limit arms sales to Saudis

Four senators have introduced a resolution to limit U.S. support for a Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war, they announced Thursday.

The resolution would require the president to certify that Saudi Arabia is meeting certain conditions before finalizing future arms sales to the country.

“The United States has no business supplying a military that targets civilians or enables terrorist groups to thrive, but that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in Yemen,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator ties Kavanaugh confirmation vote to Trump-Putin controversy Full interview: Chris Murphy speaks out on the Trump-Putin meeting and what it means Dem senator: NATO has become 'functionally obsolete' under Trump MORE (D-Conn.) said in a statement. “The Saudis are important partners in the Middle East, but they have continued to disregard our advice when it comes to target selection and civilian protection.”

Murphy introduced the resolution with Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia GOP leader blocks resolution backing intelligence community on Russia Rand Paul blocks Sanders's Russia resolution, calls it 'crazy hatred' against Trump MORE (R-Ky.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Ill.) and Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (D-Minn.).

Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since March 2015 when Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to the southern city of Aden. Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran’s support of the Houthis in a neighboring country, formed a coalition and intervened in support of Hadi.

As of March 24, 4,773 civilians have been killed and another 8,272 injured since the start of the conflict, according to the United Nations.

The United States has supported the Saudi coalition's campaign by selling Saudi Arabia billions of dollars' worth of weapons, providing intelligence and helping with logistics such as air refueling.

But as the civilian death toll mounted and pressure from human rights groups and some lawmakers intensified, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Trump was right to ditch UN’s plan for handling migrants Ex-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ MORE curbed support in the waning days of his presidency. He halted a planned $300 million sale of precision-guided munitions and curtailed some intelligence sharing.

Several reports have said President Trump is considering allowing that arms sale to go through as previously planned. Reports also say that he is considering providing assistance for an offensive on a port held by the Houthis.

Under the senators’ resolution, Trump would have to certify the Saudis are meeting three conditions before sales or transfers of air-to-ground munitions: Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners would have to take all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure; the coalition would need to make demonstrable efforts to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian assistance and commercial goods; and the Saudis would need to take effective measures to target terrorist groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Murphy and Paul introduced a similar resolution last year, but it was never reached a vote. They also led a failed effort in September to block a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the region, but it's important that our relationship be on the right terms,” Durbin said in a statement. “Their troubling record of human rights abuses, their war in Yemen and their exportation of extremism deserve close scrutiny if our partnership is to continue.”

Franken said the resolution would help the U.S. hold Saudi Arabia accountable. 

“We need to stand up for our values and ensure that the U.S. no longer turns a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of children, women, and men in Yemen," he said in a statement.