The Senate Tries (and Fails) to Oppose Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

The proposal was defeated in a landslide. But the real news is the fact that there was a vote at all. Is this a sign of positive change in the Senate on Saudi Arabia and the Yemen War?

The Story

The Senate held a vote on a resolution against a new $1.15B weapons sale to Saudi Arabia that was announced last month. In all likelihood, the new weapons will be used as part of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing Yemen War. The Yemen War is being backed by the US with diplomatic cover, weapons supplies, and logistical support.

Given this backdrop, the bipartisan resolution was seen as an indirect vote on the Yemen War itself. Based on President Obama’s track record, it should be no surprise that US participation in the Yemen War has not been voted on or authorized by Congress at any other time.

For more on the Senate vote and the details, we recommend this write-up from The Intercept:

27 U.S. Senators Rebel Against Arming Saudi Arabia

Why This Matters

The Saudi arms sales only matter because of the Yemen War. In spite of an apparent firepower advantage, the Saudis seem to be losing that conflict, which has dragged on for roughly a year and a half. And because the Saudis are highly dependent on the US for aid, weapons, and technical support, it’s possible that the war would end quickly if the US withdrew that support. That’s what this resolution was really about–it could have been the first step towards ending the US policy of unconditional support for Saudi Arabia and potentially help bring the Yemen War to a close by default.

The end of the Yemen War cannot come too soon. In this conflict, the US is backing Saudi Arabia against the Houthi rebel group, but the Houthis just so happen to be a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Thus, as is so often the case, the US-backed coalition is de facto fighting on the same side of the conflict as Al Qaeda / ISIS. The war has seen these jihadist groups grow considerably as a result. Moreover, the stated goal of the war is to reinstall a “president” who came to power after a US-sponsored election that featured only one candidate. Not exactly democracy at work.

In short, the US has managed to be on the wrong side in virtually every way in Yemen. Once we we start leaving that country alone–and start letting Saudi Arabia fight its own wars–only then will Yemen have a chance to recover.

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