The Senate Quietly Refuses to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

An Israeli soldier stands next to a guided bomb, also known as a smart bomb, in the Tel Nof air force base in central Israel, Monday, Oct. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Amid the intense media focus on United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony at a Senate hearing today something was missed — the Senate actually acted, or rather refused to act, but still required a vote.  The 53-47 vote was the Senate’s refusal to block the sale of smart-bombs and other precision-guided munition technology to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is what Reuters reports the numbers to be:


The 2015 sale included more than 8,000 Laser Guided Bombs for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The package also includes more than 10,000 general purpose bombs, and more than 5,000 tail kits used to inexpensively convert “dumb” bombs into laser or GPS-guided weapons.

The deal was blocked by the Barack Obama administration over concerns over civilian casualties in Yemen, according to this December 2016 New York Times article.

The Obama administration has deepened its rift with its Gulf allies over the ongoing conflict in Yemen, blocking a transfer of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia because of concerns about civilian casualties that administration officials attribute to poor targeting.

Quite an opener, the Obama administration’s solution to curbing civilian deaths in a war that was long in the making was to refuse to sell an old ally the best technology on the planet for aiming a bomb. Sound logic, indeed. All this happens while the American-led coalition enforces the 55 km de-escalation zone maintained by American air power that has thrice been tested.


The vote by the United States Senate to affirm Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policy that angered the Gulf Cooperation Council and embolden Iranian regional mobility is instantly politicized — especially as to conservatives who will be framed as caving to the whims of an unpopular and impulsive president. But it is hardly so simple.

This move falls in line with two core conservative principals of foreign policy. First, it is a stabilizing move meant to deter Iran who is moving thousands of Hezzbolah fighters most anywhere they please save a few pockets that have American Special Forces present. Second, it is in line with current Israeli policy.

Israel has been quiet about the moves happening between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the strategic islands in the Red Sea changing hands back to the Saudis who gave them to Egypt in 1950 over fears Israel would seize control of the islands. Which they did in 1967 in The Six Day War, but returned control to Egypt under the Camp David Accords. Safe to assume with such a violation of the agreement that the silence is its own answer from Israel.


Human rights are actually a concern for conservatives and it is good, sound policy to urge Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and Syria to seriously address how they govern and treat minority populations in their countries, but if human rights violations disqualified business transactions that would severely limit the “global” economy. The entire Gulf Cooperation Council is in a re-branding and reforming effort, but Iran is still trying to push Israel into the Sea.



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