It looks like the Saudis are going to get their new US smart bombs after all
The US Senate on June 13 narrowly averted a bid by a bipartisan group of senators to block President Donald Trump’s $500m sale of guided, air-to-ground bombs for use in Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.
The vote was 53-47 to defeat a resolution of disapproval that had been offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Senate Republicans were joined by five Democrats to defeat the measure. Four Republicans joined most Democrats to vote against the arms sale.
“We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East,” Paul said in remarks during Senate debate, citing the famine and Cholera outbreak in Yemen and Saudi domestic rights abuses as reasons not to support Trump’s munitions sale.
“What is happening today in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis,” Murphy said in floor remarks. “The United States supports the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has had the effect of causing a humanitarian nightmare to play out in that country.”
At issue are JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are guidance systems to be used with 230kg bombs and bunker busters on Saudi F-15 fighter jets.
President Barack Obama withheld sale of the guidance systems in 2016 out of concern the Saudis were deliberately attacking civilians and critical infrastructure in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest nations before the war.
Speaking for majority Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blamed military threats posed by Iran.
“The Iranian theocracy is the most destabilizing force in the Mideast,” Graham said. “They have aggressively pursued military action through proxies and directly been involved in military action in Syria. Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and now Yemen have to be pushed back.”
More than 4,125 civilians have been killed and more than 7,200 civilians have been wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led air campaign started in March 2015, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. Most of those casualties resulted from Saudi coalition air strikes.
The June 13 Senate vote was close enough and the outcome sufficiently uncertain that Vice President Mike Pence was briefly called to the chamber to break a tie had there been one, a rare occurrence. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.
Though largely symbolic, the close vote signals a potential shift in congressional willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing campaign in Yemen. By comparison, a similar resolution last year attempting to block tank sales by Obama failed by a 71-27 margin.
The disputed sale of guided missiles is a small part of a major, $110B package of arms, including M1 tanks, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters – arranged by Trump on his May 20 visit to Riyadh. There’s been no real move in Congress to challenge that larger transfer, begun under Obama following the Iran-United Nations nuclear deal.
Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, Congress requires presidents to notify it of any pending arms sale, and in the case of sales to the Middle East to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbors. Congress can block any arms sale simply by passing a resolution of disapproval.
US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week
On November 19th, the United States Navy joined NASA and other countries in the search for an Argentinian submarine that went missing November 15th.
Sexual assault at Fort Bragg up 28 percent over last year
A summary released by the Department of Defense shows reports of sexual assault from Fort Bragg increased by 28 percent in 2016 over the year before.
ISIS' last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces
Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook Rawah on Nov. 17, the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group.
Why Chinese bombers suddenly flew so close to Okinawa
China just sent a set of H-6 bombers and and intelligence gathering aircraft through international airspace between Okinawa and Miyoko. Here's why.
That time Politifact took Duffel Blog seriously
Duffel Blog finally holds their heads up high as the "The American military's Most Trusted news source" was given the dubious honors of being ranked as "Pants on Fire" by Politifact.
This amazing Air Force cadet is now a Rhodes Scholar
An Air Force Academy student has been named a Rhodes Scholar, winning a full ride scholarship to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Watch this bomber's rare low-level flyover of powerful Navy carriers
The B-1B may be a strategic bomber with a lot of firepower, but it is the type of plane that can fulfill a pilots' need for speed in the air.
This is why enlisted Marines should wear rank on their sleeves
The rank on U.S. Marine Corps utilities has only been on the collar since 1959. It's actually more traditional to wear rank on the sleeve.
6 simple reasons the cook should always be your best friend
There are three people you should always be friends with. The cook. The medic (or Corpsman.) And whatever the MOS of the person repeating the phrase.