Republican Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that a vote to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia would pass “overwhelmingly,” but added that the “powers that be” will try to prevent Senate from voting, the Washington Examiner reports.
“I think if we were to have a vote in the next couple of weeks on whether or not to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, we would win overwhelmingly. I think the powers that be will try to prevent us from having that vote.”
Known for often going against the Republican Party’s hive mind, the outspoken libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky broke with President Donald Trump, adding that halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia would not hurt jobs. Earlier this week, after learning about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump threatened Saudi Arabia with “severe punishment,” but when asked about imposing sanctions against the country, replied that he doesn’t want to “hurt” jobs, according to The Guardian.
For Senator Paul, however, selling arms to Saudi Arabia is not an economic issue, nor is it in the interest of the United States to sell weapons to a country currently participating in the bloody Yemen conflict. “Our military arms are part of our national defense,” Paul said. “They are owned by the country and I think we should never sell arms to any country unless it’s in national security interest.” Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen “actually increases our national security risk,” he opined.
President Trump and Senator Rand Paul seemingly disagree on a number of issues concerning the Jamal Khashoggi case. Trump called Saudi Arabia’s narrative “credible,” while Paul referred to it as “insulting,” according to The Hill. According to Paul, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was likely involved in Khashoggi’s murder and the subsequent coverup. He thinks the United States needs to have a “long and serious” discussion with Saudi Arabia in order to determine whether the country wants to be an ally or an enemy.
For Senator Paul, the Khashoggi murder appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and just an additional reason to halt arms sales. In an interview with Fox News, Paul explained that Saudi Arabia has been indiscriminately killing civilians, killing children, bombing school buses and funerals, committing war crimes, and committing crimes against humanity. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, is facing starvation as Saudis continue to block ports, Paul said, which is why the United States should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
“I would cut off arms sales. It’s the only thing the Saudis will listen to,” the Kentucky senator concluded.
Paul is not the only senator to push for a vote on Saudi arms sales. According to Politico, a bipartisan group of senators is gearing up to force a vote on the issue.