After previously on Thursday the Senate killed a proposal by Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to block $300 million in US arms sales to Bahrain — a key Saudi coalition ally in the Yemen war — Senators proposed another bill that would suspend all US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and block the refueling of Saudi warplanes bombing Yemen.
Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, led by Bob Menendez (R-New Jersey) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018” — also with the sponsorship of three Democrats — to hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sen. Menendez had previously argued that Bahrain was a "critical ally" especially as the US Navy bases its Fifth Feel there, and that the missile systems the US provides the tiny GCC country had nothing to do with the military campaign in Yemen.
One of Sen. Paul's supporters, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), argued that “It is long overdue that we end U.S. complicity in Saudi Arabia’s atrocities,” and said, “We must end all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen now.” Paul's resolution failed 77-21 as it faced a veto threat from the White House and as its opposition argued Bahrain is the wrong target and needed US missile and anti-tank systems to curtail the threat from Iran.
Menendez said the just announced sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals introduced by the White House were “not enough” in response to Khashoggi's death to ensure Riyadh properly investigates and ends its criminal behavior. Menendez described his bill as "putting teeth behind these demands with regular oversight, sanctions and suspension of weapons sales and refueling support.”
On Senate floor, @RandPaul decries lack of press coverage on #Yemen: "Your tax dollars are supporting this war," he said. Senate should debate whether it should aid Saudi Arabia, he says, arguing that "the prerogative to declare war is Congress's."— lesley clark (@lesleyclark) November 15, 2018
And Graham said, “This legislation is an important way to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for various acts in Yemen as well as the death of Jamal Khashoggi.”
However, President Trump had previously dubbed talk of halting all weapons sales to the kingdom as "foolish" because it would result in massive American job loss and the Saudis would simply deal with other countries. The measure introduced later on Thursday would further require the president to sanction any person found responsible for Khashoggi's death — which would become especially interesting if evidence were uncovered proving that crown prince MbS ordered the hit.
Meanwhile critics decried opponents of Sen. Paul's original bill which sought to expand US punitive measures to Saudi Arabia's regional allies as merely displaying symbolic outrage at the Saudis for the sake of PR damage control, and not actually interesting in permanently ending the Saudi coalition's devastation of Yemen.
The fact also remains that the United States itself has for years played a lead role in executing the war on Yemen, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, according to U.N. estimates.