WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, has swept aside objections from Congress to complete the sale of over $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.
The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.
Members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months.
Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that US partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”
In documents sent to Congress, Pompeo listed a wide range of products and services that would be provided to the countries. These include Raytheon precision-guided munitions (PGMs), support for Boeing Co. F-15 aircraft, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp.
Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad. Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Other companies that will benefit include General Electric, now cleared to sell engines for use in F-16 fighter jets operated by the UAE, and the US unit of French firm Thales, which was cleared to sell a fuzing system for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to Britain and the UAE.
It will also likely be welcome news for Britain’s BAE Systems Plc and Europe’s Airbus, clearing the way for installation of Paveway laser-guided bombs on European-built Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets sold to Saudi Arabia, as well F-15 fighters built by Boeing.
In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.
Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran over what it sees as a threat of potential attack.
Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said the administration was responding to important needs from partners.
“This is about deterrence and it’s not about war,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.