U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman offers Saudi rights bill

Vastavam web:  The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Jim Risch, introduced legislation on Wednesday punishing Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but not halting weapons sales. The bill is the latest effort in Congress to hold the kingdom accountable for rights abuses, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

However, the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act would not block weapons sales to Riyadh, focusing instead on barring travel by many members of the Saudi royal family who work in its government, although not the king or crown prince. A handful of Republicans joined Democrats to pass resolutions opposing the sales, rejecting Trump’s decision to sidestep Congressional review of such deals by declaring an emergency over threats from Iran, although with too few votes to override a presidential veto.

The Republican-majority Foreign Relations Committee also approved separate legislation, sponsored by ranking Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, that would make it more difficult for Trump to avoid congressional review of arms sales.

Assistant Secretary of State Clarke Cooper told a Foreign Relations hearing on the weapons sales on Wednesday that the equipment has not been delivered, even though it has been seven weeks since the emergency declaration in May. “Delivery is pending,” he said, prompting Republicans and Democrats to question the administration’s decision.