This week, US President Donald Trump worked to fast track a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The president used emergency powers in order to bypass Congress and go forward with billions of dollars in weapon sales.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Congress on Friday to explain the administration’s plans. Pompeo explained that the Saudis would be the first line of defense against Iran if there was a conflict.
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said, “An emergency exists, which requires the immediate sale of the defense articles and defense services.”
The US government will now be sending large shipments of arms to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.
The weapons are needed “to deter further the malign influence of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” Pompeo said.
“Today’s action will quickly augment our partners’ capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to US posture in the region to deter Iran,” he added.
$8.1 Billion Deal
In the statement, Pompeo confirmed that the deal included $8.1 billion worth of arms.
Meanwhile, Trump announced a new troop deployment for the Middle East. The deployment will include an additional 1,500 US troops.
The deal was unpopular with both Republicans and Democrats, who pointed to Saudi Arabia’s many human rights violations.
Pompeo told Congress that “I intend for this determination to be a one-time event,” in response to the backlash.
Pompeo was quick to note that this is not the first time that a President has used these emergency powers. Secretary of State Pompeo pointed out at least four other presidents have taken similar action since 1979.
He also promised that “this specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress.”
However, Pompeo also blamed Congress for slowing down an important measure for the country’s defense.
“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” Pompeo said.
“These national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of Congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit,” Pompeo added.
An anonymous US official described the contents of the arms shipments to CNN.
The source said that the shipments included surveillance aircraft, advanced precision-kill weapon guidance systems, and Javelin missiles. In addition to the hardware, the US will also provide maintenance and training to their Middle Eastern allies.
An Emergency Loophole
In order to make this deal, the White House took advantage of Section 36 of the Arms Control Act. This is a loophole that allows the White House to approve arms deals without Congress signing off.
For most arms deals or acts of war, a 30 day oversight period is required. This requirement is in place to allow Congress enough time to vote on the issue. What this means is that the White House can just declare an emergency if they want to fund unpopular programs without getting permission from Congress.
Senator Chris Murphy said that Trump is making this move because he knew that Congress would not approve the sale.
“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” Murphy said.
“There is no new ’emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen. Doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there. This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress.”
“We have the constitutional duty to declare war and the responsibility to oversee arm sales that contravene our national security interests. If we don’t stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to,” Murphy added.
Talk of Iran has been missing from Donald Trump’s Twitter page this week. Last week on Twitter, Trump threatened that a war with the US would “end” Iran.
Tensions are now higher than ever between Iran and the United States, and neither side is showing signs of backing down.
If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
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