Washington (GPA) – In a move to put pressure on the Gulf nations to resolve their growing dispute, one senator may stand in the way of future arms sales to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Senator Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he may block future arms sales to nations involved in the ongoing dispute in the Gulf. Corker has the ability to block arms sales based on his position as chair since his committee has to review contracts before they can be put to a vote before the senate as a whole.
Corker alerted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of his decision in a letter earlier this week. In the letter Corker voiced his concern that “All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran.”
While the ongoing wars and long list of war crimes in Yemen and other nations has failed to stop the US selling arms to the GCC, it appears the US is willing to draw the line where their interests are at stake. The move by Corker will also not stop arms sales that have already been approved, including the a portion of the $110 billion dollar deal agreed to by Trump during his visit to Saudi Arabia.
The block is likely being launched in coordination with the Trump administration, rather than in opposition, as a means to bolster ongoing attempts at diplomacy being spearheaded by Tillerson. The freeze on sales is still too late to stop $510 million in precision guided munitions on their way to Riyadh and also won’t exclude “non lethal assistance” such as training.
In Corker’s own words the sales are frozen because his committee “need[s] a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify” the GCC. Corker voiced concern over the current state of the GCC following Trump’s visit to Riyadh, saying the nations had failed to “take advantage” of the meeting and “instead chose to devolve into conflict.”
The freeze will still put a halt to line items in the sale to Saudi Arabia that haven’t been approved and could possibly slow a $15 billion deal with Qatar. Qatar had just sealed the deal for a group of F-15 fighter jets days after they were isolated by their neighbors.
It’s unclear how the conflict between the gulf states will come to an end as Sunday marks the deadline for Qatar to implement an impossible list of 13 demands put forward by the Saudis. The one thing the freeze does show is that the US clearly has no problem with years of war crimes, but once western business and military assets are threatened, you’ve gone too far.