House committee challenges weapon sales to Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Hamoud  Getty Images

Mohammed Hamoud Getty Images

Cooper responded that USA alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE don't "preclude us from holding partners accountable, not just on human rights, but also on protecting our interests".

The Trump Administration didn't want to lose billions in Saudi arms sales over the murder, and chose to just insist the Saudi investigation is ongoing.

"The emergency declaration is nothing more than an egregious abuse of power by an Administration that doesn't like being told 'no.' There is no emergency", Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, said in a statement.

Lawmakers including Trump loyalists have expressed concern that United States weapons might be used against civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition engaged in the brutal war there.

Companies that would benefit include Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions (PGMs), support for Boeing Co F-15 aircraft, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp.

"President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale", Sen. Next week, the Senate next week plans to consider 22 joint resolutions-one for each sale-designed to prevent the transaction.

Democrats and Republicans are frustrated by Trump's continued embrace of Saudi leaders in the face of congressional efforts to distance the United States from Yemen's civil war and impose sanctions in response to its leaders' role in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist who was slain in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October.

While that is enough to pass the resolutions, it is not clear that enough Republicans will join the effort to secure the two-thirds majority it takes to overcome a presidential veto. "I think the best thing that the administration could do is work to get all of us on board", he said. "It's phony, it's made up, and it's an abuse of the law - once again, attempting to cut Congress out of the whole picture", said the committee's chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

"There is no emergency, but there is a conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians with US -made weapons and a Congress that is exhausted of being complicit", he added.

But Cooper said the administration was determined to support Mideast allies opposed to Iran.

Cooper refused to detail in a public setting any of the individual deals, leaving Democrats to question whether the administration was expediting the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia to arm it for a regional war or an escalation of its military campaign in Yemen.

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They are also meant to prevent Russia, China and other potential arms suppliers from stepping deeper into the Middle East, he said.

Cooper said that some of the weapons have already been sent to the customer since the emergency declaration and before Wednesday's hearing.

"Holding a partner, any partner, accountable doesn't preclude us from working with the partner", Cooper said.

Khashoggi was murdered past year on October 2 in Saudi consulate of Istanbul.

The CIA has determined with "medium to high confidence" that the crown prince, commonly known by his initials MbS and considered de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing, USA government sources have said.

Graffiti protesting Lockheed Martin's involvement in Saudi bombing of Yemen.

"Earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans rightfully voted to end US engagement in the Saudi-led military campaign against Houthis in Yemen".

"Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia", Graham said.

"Here's the reality: there is no emergency", Engel said.

Cooper also did not disclose new information about Iran, but noted that Houthi rebels in Yemen had fired rockets at a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Monday.

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