Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1 billion arms sale to the two US allies in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Iran and tension has mounted between the UAE and Tehran over several issues, including the UAE’s coordination with US efforts to curb what it calls Iran’s malign activities in the region.
But Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way that would have bypassed congressional review infuriated lawmakers. In a partisan pushback to Trump’s foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans banded together to pass resolutions to block the weapons sale. The White House had argued that stopping the sale would send a signal that the United States doesn’t stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them are increasing. The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support.
Anger has been mounting in Congress over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fuelled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen a military campaign the US is assisting and the killing of US-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.