British court rules United Kingdom govt must reconsider arms sales to Saudi Arabia


The Senate voted on Thursday to block the Trump administration's $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia but the numbers were not enough to overturn a veto by President Trump. Two of the resolutions passed with 53 votes, while another group was approved narrowly, with 51 votes.

There has been increasing frustration with Saudi Arabia in Congress for months, over the devastating human toll of the air campaign in Yemen it is waging with the UAE.

The measures would block 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Mr Trump bypassed Congress last month by invoking a rarely used aspect of federal law.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited threats from Iran when declaring an emergency to approve the weapons sales in May.

But the move sparked fierce opposition on Capitol Hill from those who feared the weapons may be used against civilians in Yemen by Saudi-led forces.

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

This escalated fears of a wider conflict and will no doubt reinforce the administration's argument that its allies need these weapons.

The senator was referring to last year's brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey at the hands of Saudi agents, an incident that triggered a full-blown crisis in Riyadh's relations with the West.

A United Nations rights investigator said on Wednesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials should be investigated over the Khashoggi's murder.

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But the court's ruling does not mean existing arms-sales licenses must be suspended, only that the government "must reconsider the matter".

It did not rule on whether the United Kingdom or Saudi Arabia had breached global humanitarian law - just that the United Kingdom should have taken the matter into consideration when granting the licences.

But even Republicans who opposed legislation to end US involvement in the Yemen conflict, which passed Congress but was vetoed by Trump, said a message needed to be sent to Riyadh.

"To reject these sales at this time and under these circumstances is to reward recent Iranian aggression and to encourage further Iranian escalation", said Sen.

But those who voted to stop the deal - including seven Republicans who broke ranks - were not convinced.

"I don't think there's anyone on this (Senate) floor that is averse to the idea that action needs to be taken", said Republican Senator Jim Risch, the foreign relations committee chairman, noting common interests between Washington and Riyadh. "This is a power grab, pure and simple, with lasting implications for the role of Congress in the sale of arms around the world", Menendez said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist on several other fronts, offered a full-throated rebuke of the arms sales - and of the Saudi leadership.

"My relationship with Saudi Arabia is forever changed", he said in a speech before the votes.

Graham said he hoped his vote would "send a signal to Saudi Arabia that if you act the way you're acting, there is no space for a strategic relationship".