Republican-Led Senate Votes to Block Trump Administration's Saudi Arms Sale

Senator Robert Menendez seen here in April 2019 says the Senate will vote on blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia

In London on Thursday, an English court ruled that Britain had broken the law by allowing arms sales to Saudi Arabia that might have been deployed in the war in Yemen, after activists said there was evidence the weapons had been used in violation of human rights statutes.

The votes came against the backdrop of heightened USA tensions with Iran, spurred by the Islamic Republic's downing of a US drone.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., introduced the measures, citing Saudi Arabia's role in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in a multi-year campaign against Houthi rebels, often with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.

The US Senate - in a rare bipartisan move - has voted to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, strongly wanted by President Donald Trump in recent months, for a total value of eight billion dollars.

"Saudi Arabia serves as a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies", the White House said, adding that the resolutions would affect the ability of American partners "to deter and defend against Iran's hostile acts".

President Donald Trump is expected to veto all 22 resolutions of disapproval as Congress did not garner the two-thirds majority needed to overrule a presidential veto. "They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime's escalatory behaviour", a White House statement said. Trump declared Thursday that "Iran made a very big mistake", and congressional leaders received a closed-door briefing on the situation at the Capitol. Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The $8 billion arms sale included precision-guided munitions, ammunition, bombs, and maintenance support for aircraft.

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Opposition in Congress to closer U.S. Saudi ties escalated after the killing previous year of U.S. -based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the kingdom.

The government had "made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of worldwide humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so", Etherton ruled. They were voted on en bloc, whereby four Republicans joined the Democrats in that 51-45 vote.

The conflict in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians and left millions more are on the brink of starvation.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who usually supports Mr Trump, voted to block the sale and was forthright in his criticism of Saudi Arabia.

"My relationship with Saudi Arabia is forever changed, ' he said, accusing the Kingdom of taking their relationship with the U.S. 'for granted" and caring more about 'maintaining power at all costs, ' than their alliance.

"The timing could not be worse for the Senate to send the wrong signal", he said.

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