US arms exports come under fire in South Sudan

The Obama administration is coming under criticism for its arms exports and military aid policies, as South Sudan descends into chaos.

The administration has suspended military assistance and training to the country it helped midwife in 2011 amid escalating ethnic strife. Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Trump taps Hill veteran for White House environment job Dems unveil push to secure state voting systems MORE (D-Mass.), however, pressed the administration to more broadly rethink its policy of relaxing arms exports, as South Sudan joins Egypt and others in using U.S. weapons against its own population.

“I think it has to be a high consideration, because the law of unintended consequences is clearly evoked in a very significant way,” he told The Hill after a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations panel on Thursday. “I'm raising the concern here today, and it's something I'm going to be focused on.”

Markey pointed out that the State Department authorized $9 million in military sales to South Sudan in 2012, even as the European Union maintained its own arms embargo. He said the atrocities in South Sudan, where more than 1,000 people have been killed and 180,000 displaced over the past month, challenge the wisdom of the administration's decision last year to loosen controls over the export of military parts, which no longer require a State Department certification that the recipient won't use them to violate human rights.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the State Department's assistant secretary for Africa, testified that the department is reviewing its security agreement with South Sudan.

“Our security assistance, I think, raises some serious questions on how we will implement programs that provide training to the Sudanese military after some of these actions,” she said. “My view is South Sudan — we are suspending right now the implementation of all of those programs — we will be looking very closely at any kind of support we provide the South Sudanese military in the future.”

Congress and the administration are struggling to stop the implosion of the world's newest country. The U.S. was a crucial backer of majority-Christian South Sudan's bid to be an independent from Muslim Sudan, following years of conflict, and its implosion would be a personal setback for Congress and the White House.

“Looking back, the U.S. government and members of this committee were hopeful when we strongly supported South Sudan's independence in 2011,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo MORE (D-N.J.). He said his decision to devote the first hearing of the year to the issue shows it's a bipartisan priority.

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