Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Saturday slammed the $110 billion defense deal President Trump signed with Saudi Arabia, saying the U.S. is relying on a country with "the worst human rights record in the region" to bring peace and security to the Middle East.
“It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East," Murphy wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed criticizing the deal. "The arms sale is a terrible idea."
Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Kingdom has repeatedly used U.S.-provided weapons against civilians in the region, citing attacks on Yemen during its civil war.
“Obama withheld precision-guided munitions because the Saudis were using U.S.-provided munitions to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites in their bombing campaign inside Yemen, despite regular protests from the United States," Murphy wrote.
“By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more — not fewer — civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them,” he continued.
Murphy said more Yemenis have since been radicalized and blame the U.S. for Saudi Arabia’s attacks. He also argued that the weapons would not be used against intended targets like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda.
“The Saudis’ obsession with Iran, and the proxy wars (like Yemen) that flow from this obsession, mean that they have little bandwidth to go after extremist groups,” he wrote, claiming that even if Trump does try to put pressure on the Saudis, they will likely not concede because “they are already getting everything they could ever want militarily from the United States.”
The arms package aims to increase Saudi Arabia's defense capabilities by their bolstering equipment and services while also allowing the U.S. to scale back its military commitment in the region.
Murphy said the weapons deal would escalate a proxy war in the region, which could propel Iran to ramp up its nuclear program, adding that this is not “our fight.” He argued the $110 billion in funds could instead be applied to a strategy that aims to achieve global security, like providing primary education in Africa.
“Yes, this is the Saudi’s money, but we shouldn’t just assume that the path to global security is through the spread of more and more weapons,” he reasoned, saying terrorist organizations “thrive on economic destitution” that more education could combat.
The Democratic senator added that the defense deal "was negotiated by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who has zero experience in foreign relations generally, or Saudi arms sales specifically."
He concluded that while the kingdom is an American ally and they jointly work with the U.S. to combat extremist groups, “they are a deeply imperfect friend” to trust with these highly calibrated weapons.
Trump praised the massive defense deal Saturday, saying it will fuel job growth.
"Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs," Trump said referring to the defense deal, according to a White House pool report.