US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced he is proposing a bill to limit US weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, in protest to the regime’s human rights violations in neighboring Yemen.
The timing of the bill has caught the attention of international policy analysts, coming only a day after former US Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) announced that the White House had informed him that the 28 secret pages from the 9/11 Commission Report that directly implicate high-ranking members of the House of Saud in funding and otherwise supporting the 9/11 hijackers.
Despite growing indications that diplomatic relations between the US and Saudi Arabia may be starting to freeze over, the House of Saud remains closely integrated into America’s strategy against Daesh in Syria. Security analysts have long argued that Saudi leaders are providing material support to Daesh and, along with Turkey and Qatar, are taking actions to undermine that fight.
Senator Chris Murphy refused to cite concerns that Saudi officials were implicated in the 9/11 attacks, or growing concern that they may be fighting on both sides against Daesh, instead noting that the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen was indiscriminate, resulting in troubling levels of civilian casualties.
"There is a growing discomfort in Congress about the growing level of arms sales to the Mideast, and a lot more people willing to ask questions than there were just a few years ago," said Murphy.
Murphy argued that Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in Yemen are being inaccurately attributed on the ground to the US, causing further injury to America’s reputation in the region.
"I’ve been hearing regularly, in Yemen, that this is being seen as a US campaign that is clearly creating more, not less, space for extremist groups to operate so I think the bar should be higher for the US to send replacement munitions."
The bill’s co-sponsor, prominent libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), mirrored Murphy, stating in a press release Wednesday, "Saudi Arabia is an important partner, but we must acknowledge when a friend’s actions aren’t in our national interest. I have yet to see evidence that the civil war we’re supplying and supporting in Yemen advances our national security."
Senator Paul’s current comments toward the Saudi regime were more measured than previous statements. In the past year, Paul has referred to Saudi Arabia as a Middle East ‘arsonist,’ calling on the US to boycott Saudi Arabia and stop selling arms to the regime, which, he claimed as recently as June 2015, was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Senator Chris Murphy cautioned, however, that support for the measure may be slim within Congress, given defense lobbyists’ influence on the Hill and the defense industry’s reliance on its foreign arms trade.