Trump to invoke emergency to sell arms to Saudis, citing Iran threat

A burnt building at a power station in the Saudi city of Najran

A burnt building at a power station in the Saudi city of Najran

Donald Trump's administration is planning to bypass Congress to allow the sale of $7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are involved in a bloody war in Yemen, The New York Times reported Thursday.

"These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran", Pompeo said, criticizing the Senate for stalling on the review of the deals.

"There will be a partial exemption for joint European programmes and their connected licences until the end of December 2019", said Hunt, in letter to the parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls (CEAC), according to the Guardian.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration did not cite a specific legal or practical reason for using the loophole other than Iran.

Tensions between Iran and the USA sparked following United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 nuclear deal, in May 2018.

Absent the review process as a tool to protect America's interests and uphold human rights, Menendez said he plans to pursue unspecified "legislative and other means to nullify these and any planned ongoing sales" if the administration proceeds.

Another, the Republican Foreign Relations Committee chairperson, Senator Jim Risch, said he had received formal notification of the administration's intent to move forward with "a number of arms sales". James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said that he was "reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications".

The State Department declined to comment, citing its policy not to confirm or deny potential arms sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified.

Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for an attack on an oil pipeline and the USA warned sailors in the Gulf of an increased threat form Iran or its allies after ships were sabotaged off the coast of the U.A.E.

Earlier this year, Congress approved a resolution that would have ended United States involvement in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen. Under current law Congress faces two fundamental obstacles to block or modify a presidential sale of military equipment: "it must pass legislation expressing its will on the sale, and it must be capable of overriding a presumptive presidential veto of such legislation".

Several members of Congress, including many Republicans, have also expressed anger over the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed past year in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

USA officials had said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could decide to invoke the provision as early as Friday.

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a USA -based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

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