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Senate votes to back USD 1 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia

Senators who supported the sale said the United States can't deny its Middle East allies the weapons they need to combat Islamic State extremists and check Iran's aggression in the region.



Washington: The Senate backed the Obama administration's plan to sell more than USD 1 billion worth of American-made tanks and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, soundly defeating a bid to derail the deal pushed by lawmakers critical of the kingdom's role in Yemen's civil war.

Senators who supported the sale said the United States can't deny its Middle East allies the weapons they need to combat Islamic State extremists and check Iran's aggression in the region.

"Blocking this sale of tanks will be interpreted by our Gulf partners, not just Saudi Arabia, as another sign that the United States of America is abandoning our commitment to the region and is an unreliable security partner," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Although a resolution against the sale failed to advance on a vote of 71-27, the measure's sponsors said yesterday the debate demonstrated that congressional support for arms sales even to a longtime and important Middle East ally isn't automatic.

They also used the time to insist that Congress play a larger role in foreign policy decisions, especially those involving the use of military force.

The war in Yemen is pitting the country's internationally recognised government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who are allied with army units loyal to a former president.

The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015 and thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting, according to the UN human rights chief.

The United States is supporting the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support, including refueling aircraft, according to senators opposed to the sale.

Most Americans are unaware of how involved their military is in Yemen, they said, adding that lawmakers never have fully discussed whether the participation advances US national security interests.

"Should Congress just lie down and be a lapdog for the president?" asked Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a sponsor of the resolution. "Everyone should understand that this is a proxy vote for whether we should be at war in the Middle East."

Sen Chris Murphy, D-Conn , who also opposed the sale, said the Saudis have bombed areas that the US has asked them to avoid. At the same time, the Islamic State and al-Qaida are growing "by leaps and bounds," Murphy said, because the Saudis are hitting primarily Houthi and civilian targets.

From Zee News

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