A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced a resolution that would set conditions on sales of U.S. air-to-ground weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFive things to know about Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine Senate Democrat says he will 'settle' for less aggressive gun control reform 'because that will save lives' Ernst on Russian buildup on Ukraine border: 'We must prepare for the worst' MORE (D-Conn.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) offered the measure after reports emerged that the Saudis have used U.S. weapons in attacks in Yemen that killed civilians.
“Saudi Arabia is an important partner, but we must acknowledge when a friend’s actions aren’t in our national interest,” Murphy said in a written statement.
Saudi Arabia is fighting a war in Yemen against Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as the Houthi.
A human rights group said last week that U.S.-supplied bombs were used last month in an airstrike on a market that killed at least 119 people.
“I have yet to see evidence that the civil war we’re supplying and supporting in Yemen advances our national security," Murphy said. "The more it drags on, the clearer it becomes that our military involvement on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition is prolonging human suffering in Yemen and aiding the very groups that are intent on attacking us.”
Murphy and Paul’s resolution would require the president to certify that certain conditions are being met before selling or transferring air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia.
“For too long the Obama administration has not been holding countries receiving U.S. military munitions accountable in the Middle East,” Paul said in a written statement. “It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s record on strictly targeting combatants and legitimate military targets in Yemen has been questionable.”
Under the legislation, the U.S. would not be able to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia unless that government and its partners in Yemen take precautions to reduce the risk to civilians and civilian infrastructure of bombing.
They also would have to facilitate humanitarian assistance in Yemen; show they are not providing funding, materiel support or lethal aid to designated foreign terrorist organizations; and take all necessary measures to target designated foreign terrorist organizations in Yemen.
In his statement, Murphy warned that continued unchecked support by the United States would have consequences.
“As the humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate, anti-American sentiment is spiraling as the local population blames the U.S. for the thousands of civilian deaths resulting from the Saudis’ bombing campaign,” he said. “This will come back to haunt us.”
The fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is also suffering as a result of the war in Yemen, Murphy added.
“And worse, our Gulf state partners have scaled back their anti-ISIS activity in order to focus on fighting Iran in Yemen,” he said. “It's time that we put real conditions on our military aid to the Saudis, including the requirement that their proxy wars with Iran not distract them from the fight against violent extremist groups like ISIS.”