US President Donald Trump has vetoed three Congressional resolutions barring billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a move criticised by the House Speaker for ignoring the Kingdom’s “horrific abuses” including the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
President Trump defended his Wednesday’s decision, saying the resolutions SJ Res 36, 37 and 38 “would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners”.
“It is stunning that the President has chosen to not only turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s horrific abuses, including the atrocity of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder but to go further and allow the sale of more arms that will be used to perpetrate more human rights abuses around the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate on October 2 when he arrived to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage.
The 59-year-old Saudi insider-turned-critic was strangled and his body cut into pieces.
“The President’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his Administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” she said.
Pelosi said the Congress will continue to uphold its oversight responsibility.
“We will continue to work to advance a peaceful, enduring political solution to the conflict and end the devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Pelosi said.
SJ Res. 36 would have prohibited the issuance of certain licenses with respect to several proposed agreements or transfers to Saudi Arabia, the UK and Northern Ireland, Spain, and Italy.
SJ Res. 37 would have prohibited the issuance of export licenses for certain defense articles, defense services and technical data to support the transfer of Paveway II kits to the UAE), the UK and Northern Ireland, and France.
SJ Res. 38 would prohibit the issuance of export licenses for the proposed transfer of defense articles, defense services and technical data to support the manufacture of the Aurora Fuzing System for the Paveway IV Precision Guided Bomb Programme in regard to Saudi Arabia and Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In his veto statement, Trump defended the need to supply arms to Saudi Arabia.
“First and foremost, it is our solemn duty to protect the safety of the more than 80,000 United States citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and who are imperiled by Houthi attacks from Yemen,” he said.
The Houthis, supported by Iran, have attacked civilian and military facilities using missiles, armed drones and explosive boats, including in areas frequented by US citizens, such as the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he said.
Second, the joint resolution would degrade Saudi Arabia’s military preparedness and ability to protect its sovereignty, directly affecting its ability to defend the US military personnel hosted there, he said.
“Third, Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region, and the licenses the joint resolution would prohibit enhance Saudi Arabia’s ability to deter and defend against these threats,” Trump argued.
In addition, these resolutions would negatively affect our NATO Allies and the transatlantic defense industry, he noted.
“It could, for example, produce unintended consequences for defense procurement and interoperability with and between our partners. It could also create diplomatic and security opportunities for our adversaries to exploit,” Trump said.