Washington: US President Donald Trump has vetoed three congressional resolutions seeking to block the White House from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries without the legislative branch’s prior approval.
Trump said that the congressional resolutions would “weaken America’s global competitiveness” and damage its “important relationships” with its allies and partners. His move came on Wednesday after both chambers of Congress voted to prevent the sale.
The President announced he was returning the bipartisan bills that would have blocked licensing for certain arms sales in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, France, Spain and Italy, as these European countries also sell arms to Riyadh, the US media reported.
“Apart from negatively affecting our bilateral relationships with Saudi Arabia, the UK, Spain, and Italy, the resolutions would hamper the ability of the US to sustain and shape critical security cooperation activities,” he said in one of his messages to the Senate.
He called each resolution “ill-conceived” and said it failed to address root causes of conflict in Yemen.
The Senate would hold a vote within days on whether to override Trump’s veto, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday. But analysts said it was almost certain that the Senate will not have the necessary two-thirds majority to do so.
It is the third time Trump has used his veto power since taking office.
In particular, Congress intended to stop an arms sale worth $8.1 billion to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that was announced in May and backed by a national emergency declaration with which the Trump administration tried to circumvent legislative control.
The sales’ main objective is to replenish the Saudis’ weapons arsenal, which has been depleted due to the Middle Eastern kingdom’s war in Yemen.
The lawmakers alleged that Saudi Arabia used US weapons against civilians in Yemen and cited Riyadh’s involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.
The White House said that “Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region”.
Trump also said that these measures (by Congress) would “degrade” the military preparedness of Saudi Arabia and the UAE “to protect its sovereignty, directly affecting its ability to defend US military personnel hosted there”.
He added that the arms sale sought to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 US citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and who are imperilled by Houthi attacks from Yemen”.
In a statement, Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York who is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said there is no emergency that calls for Trump to go around Congress with these arms deals.
“The President’s veto sends a grim message that America’s foreign policy is no longer rooted in our core values — namely a respect for human rights — and that he views Congress not as a coequal branch of government, but an irritant to be avoided or ignored,” Engel said in a news release.
“Worse still, this veto is going to cost innocent lives. These weapons are going to continue fuelling a reckless and brutal campaign of violence and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.