Top Democrat calls for US to block arms sales to Riyadh

Top Democrat calls for US to block arms sales to Riyadh


A powerful US Senator on Monday urged Washington to freeze all cooperation with Saudi Arabia over its decision to “secure” Russia’s war in Ukraine by cutting oil production.

Riyadh, Moscow and other top oil producers agreed last week on deep production cuts to boost crude prices, a move the United States denounced as a concession to Moscow that would hurt the global economy.

“There’s just no place to play both sides of this conflict – either you support the rest of the free world trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping an entire country off the map, or you support him,” Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in a terrible economic self-interest decision, chose the latter.”

The 13-nation, Saudi-led OPEC cartel and its 10 allies, led by Russia, agreed to cut production by two million barrels a day from November – fueling fears that oil prices would soar could rush.

Saudi Arabia said OPEC’s priority was to “maintain a sustainable oil market,” but its move drew a quick rebuke from Washington, which is spearheading efforts to isolate big energy producer Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including all arms sales and security cooperation, that go beyond what is strictly necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests,” Menendez said.

“As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will not give the green light to any cooperation with Riyadh until the kingdom reassesses its position on the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough.”

Menendez, an outspoken critic of Riyadh, has been at the forefront of the campaign to sanction the Saudi royal family over the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which concluded that US intelligence was from de facto -Leader Mohammed bin Salman was ordered.

He’s the latest in a line of lawmakers calling for a rethink of US-Saudi Arabia relations, but he can wield far more influence than most when it comes to tightening arms sales scrutiny.

When former President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration in 2019 to bypass Congress in approving an arms deal with Riyadh, Menendez blocked the process by refusing to acknowledge the White House’s notification of the sale until he got answers to his concerns regarding the use of US-manufactured weapons in Yemen.

“I am appalled by Russia’s depraved and desperate escalation against civilian infrastructure across Ukraine – including in Kyiv,” he said.

“I pledge to use every means at my disposal to expedite assistance to the people of Ukraine and starve Russia’s war machine.”

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