US lawmakers: Suspend weapons sales to Saudis

Republican and Democratic senators introduce legislation seeking to strike back at Saudi Arabia over death of Jamal Khashoggi.

Ben Ariel,

US Capitol
US Capitol
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Republican and Democratic US senators on Thursday introduced a bill seeking to strike back at Saudi Arabia over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a consulate in Turkey as well as for its role in Yemen’s devastating civil war, Reuters reported.

If it were to become law, the bill would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit US refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft for Riyadh’s campaign in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, the lawmakers said.

It also would impose sanctions on anyone blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and anyone supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

The legislation is sponsored by three Republican and three Democratic senators and reflects the continued dissatisfaction in the US Congress over the Yemen war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and created the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis.

That frustration was exacerbated by the killing in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post.

The Turkish government has accused Saudi Arabia of murdering the dissident journalist, who was last seen entering the Istanbul consulate on October 2, and chopping his body into pieces.

Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time several weeks ago that Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate in Istanbul, after previously denying Turkish claims that he was murdered. At the same time, the Saudi leadership claimed Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” operation.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that sanctions on 17 Saudis announced earlier on Thursday by President Donald Trump’s administration were not enough to ensure a credible investigation of Khashoggi’s death and an end to hostilities in Yemen.

“We are putting teeth behind these demands with regular oversight, sanctions and suspension of weapons sales and refueling support,” he said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“This legislation is an important way to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for various acts in Yemen as well as the death of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, another sponsor of the legislation.

The bill’s other sponsors include Republican Senators Todd Young and Susan Collins and Democrats Jack Reed and Jeanne Shaheen.

Prior to Thursday’s sanctions, the US had already revoked the visas of 21 Saudi nationals implicated in the crime.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman this week that the US will hold accountable all involved in the killing of Khashoggi.




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