Republican Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker said on Monday that he would block the sale of arms to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) until the current dispute with Qatar was resolved.
“All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran,” Sen. Corker wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The GCC is a regional political and economic body comprised by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
Under U.S. law, before major arms deals involving American weapons can go ahead, they must first be submitted to a review process led by a small group of lawmakers, including the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, meaning Corker has some power to enforce his commitment.
Other recent attempts to rein in arms deals to the Saudis have been spearheaded by Sens. Rand Paul and Chris Murphy, and in May there was a bipartisan effort to curb U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia as it relates to Yemen, where the U.S. has given vital assistance to a years-long Saudi bombing campaign.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Tillerson called for the GCC countries to sit down and discuss ways forward out of the spat. According to Reuters, a State Department official declined to comment on any arms sales, but said the Department remains “committed to working with lawmakers.”
An aide to Sen. Corker said the Senator’s action would not have any affect on sales that have already been reviewed and approved by Congress, such as a recent sale for hundreds of billions in precision-guided munitions and other weapons to the Saudis, or a deal inked earlier this month to Qatar for $12 billion in American fighter jets.
In Corker’s letter, the senator expressed approval for Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, where he also attended a GCC summit meeting.
“Unfortunately, the GCC did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict,” Corker wrote.
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