WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced new legislation to prevent the United States from continuing to support Saudi-led military campaigns in places like Yemen where Saudi Arabia’s year-long campaign has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis and a security vacuum that has empowered our terrorist enemies al Qaeda and ISIS. The Murphy-Paul bipartisan legislation will require the President of the United States to formally certify that the Government of Saudi Arabia is demonstrating an ongoing effort to target terrorist groups, minimize harm to civilians, and facilitate humanitarian assistance before Congress can consider the sale or transfer of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia is an important partner, but we must acknowledge when a friend’s actions aren’t in our national interest. I have yet to see evidence that the civil war we’re supplying and supporting in Yemen advances our national security. The more it drags on, the clearer it becomes that our military involvement on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition is prolonging human suffering in Yemen and aiding the very groups that are intent on attacking us,” said Murphy. “As the humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate, anti-American sentiment is spiraling as the local population blames the U.S. for the thousands of civilian deaths resulting from the Saudis’ bombing campaign. This will come back to haunt us. And worse, our Gulf state partners have scaled back their anti-ISIS activity in order to focus on fighting Iran in Yemen. It's time that we put real conditions on our military aid to the Saudis, including the requirement that their proxy wars with Iran not distract them from the fight against violent extremist groups like ISIS.”
“For too long the Obama administration has not been holding countries receiving U.S. military munitions accountable in the Middle East. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s record on strictly targeting combatants and legitimate military targets in Yemen has been questionable. I believe, along with Sen. Murphy, that the U.S. should halt the sale of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia until Congress has conducted proper oversight and ensured that such munitions are being used in a way that is consistent with our country’s national security strategy and values,” Paul said.
Under current law outlined in the Arms Export Control Act, the sale or transfer of arms to foreign governments by the United States must be proposed by the U.S. State Department and then approved by Congress. If Congress approves the sale, the Administration is then permitted to finalize and implement the transfer. The Murphy-Paul legislation will add a step to the approval process by requiring the President of the United States to attest that Saudi Arabia is concretely demonstrating its anti-terror efforts and protection of civilians before Congress can consider the sale. The President’s certification will assess whether Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-origin munitions in attacks against civilians in Yemen, how that affects U.S. credibility in the region, and how defense sales to Saudi Arabia contribute to U.S. national security objectives.
Murphy has repeatedly expressed concern that U.S. participation in Saudi Arabia’s military actions against Houthi rebels in Yemen threatens our own national security interests. In an address at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this year, Murphy noted the positive and cooperative components of the United States’ alliance with Saudi Arabia, but specifically criticized their support for spreading intolerance and called for our nation to suspend supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen until we are sure it does not distract from the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda. March 26, 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.
Under this joint resolution, the President’s certification must attest the following conditions are met:
- The Government of Saudi Arabia is not providing funding, materiel support, or lethal aid to designated foreign terrorist organizations;
- The Government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are taking all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in the course of military action undertaken in their self-defense as described in section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2754).
- The Government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are making demonstrable efforts to facilitate both humanitarian assistance and commercial goods, including commercial fuel and commodities not prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015).
- The Government of Saudi Arabia is taking all necessary measures to target designated foreign terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of its military operations in Yemen.