US President Donald Trump is well known for conducting his global agenda based on personal relations. And the relations he’s developed with the Saudi royals has served both sides well.
This has given Trump unprecedented leverage over how much the Saudis are willing to pump from their vast oil reserves. And Saudi Arabia remains a key regional ally against arch foe Iran.
Now, as AP reports, official and lawmakers have revealed that the Trump administration is considering an emergency declaration which would enable the US to make an arms shipment to Saudi Arabia without Congress approval.
A bid to keep important ties strong
According to the officials, the decision to invoke a national security waiver on the Arms Export Control Act could come as early as today.
It’s still unclear what sales fall under this waiver and whether it will allow previously blocked weapons to pass through or purely permit new ones. A sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia has been on hold for more than a year, AP reports.
To date, about US$2 billion in potential arms sales have been blocked by congressional opposition under concerns for the safety of civilians, citing the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
But last month, Trump vetoed the legislation that was set to end US military assistance in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. No point ending a relationship that gives both parties what they are after.
Emergency exception not a new move
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been considering the waiver for months, says the officials.
Recently, however, the waiver has climbed the priority ladder as a result of heightened threats from Iran and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
While there will no doubt be the usual backlash from any idea proposed by the Trump administration, history has set a precedent for using the emergency exemption in this particular circumstance.
President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s and both Presidents George H W Bush and George W Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.
So it’s a method that has been tried and tested. No hot-headed political decisions here.
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