Foreign policy “restrainers” like GOP Sen. Rand Paul and progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as “Squad” members like Rep. Ilhan Omar are working together to oppose President Joe Biden’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
This marks a rare alliance between left and right— and hints at a faction that’s hostile to both pro-Biden Democrats and the GOP establishment.
Paul on Tuesday told The Intercept “that he will most likely force a floor vote on the Biden White House’s first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia and is seeking out Democrats to co-sponsor a resolution.”
— The Intercept (@theintercept) November 17, 2021
Paul might have some takers:
- “As the Saudi government continues to wage its devastating war in Yemen and repress its own people, we should not be rewarding them with more arms sales,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders in a joint statement this week.
- It’s not clear Democrats are fully on board with a forced floor vote, but progressives like the cut of Paul’s jib: “My position generally has been to support truly defensive weapons sales to the Saudis, while opposing sales that could be used in offensive operations, particularly in Yemen,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told the Intercept.
- And, as noted by the center-right Cato Institute, progressive Democrats in the House basically stand with Rand.
- “It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery,” Omar said last week in a press release announcing a joint resolution to block the sale. “Congress has the authority to stop these sales, and we must exercise that power.”
A series of controversies in recent years have led to severe scrutiny regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a longstanding U.S. ally.
- In 2015, the Kingdom spearheaded a deadly war in Yemen.
- The Kingdom’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has come under fire for using brute force tactics to consolidate his rule and eliminate his enemies, including approving the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
- A defector from the regime told “60 Minutes” last month that bin Salman has a “Tiger Squad” of off-the-books assassins that he uses to commit targeted murders.
“I am here to sound the alarm about a psychopath, killer, in the Middle East with infinite resources, who poses threat to his people, to the Americans and to the planet,” says former Saudi spy Saad Aljabri about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. https://t.co/sMleGwQpsr pic.twitter.com/XSgxH5r3DL
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) October 24, 2021
The upshot: As Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted last month, Saudi Arabia’s notoriety means Biden wouldn’t deign to meet with Bin Salman in person, but the president has stopped short of declining arms sales.
- This has led progressives, and Republican “foreign policy restrainers” like Paul, to fiercely criticize Biden’s $650 million arms sale to the Western Asian nation.