The Middle East is a hot cauldron continually threatening to boil over.
It is a mistake to funnel arms into centuries-old conflicts.
There is no great certainty that the arms we send into the Middle East will not one day be used against our soldiers. In fact, there is a real threat that someday our young soldiers will be sent to fight against the very weapons Congress sends today.
It has happened. In Iran, to this day, the military still has some U.S. weapons left over from weapons the U.S. supplied to the shah. In Iraq, some of the weapons we gave the country to fight Iran were still there when we returned to fight Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan, some of the weapons we gave the mujahedeen to fight the Russians were still there when we returned to fight the Taliban.
Proliferating arms in the midst of chaos is a recipe for disaster. It’s hard to argue that sending arms into Libya or Syria advanced liberty in any way.
Dreamers often longingly speak of a peace plan for the Middle East. Maybe we should consider a peace plan that doesn’t include dumping more arms into a region aflame in civil unrest, civil war and anarchy.
The argument goes that we must arm anyone who is not Iran. We are told that because of Iran’s threat, the U.S. must accept selling arms to anyone who opposes Iran, even bone-saw-wielding countries brazen enough to kill a dissident in a foreign consulate.
What would happen if we just said no? What would happen if we simply conditioned arms sales on behavior?
Are the Saudis so weak that Iran will overrun them without additional U.S. weapons?
Of course not. The Saudis now spend more on their military than Russia. The Saudis now have the third-largest military budget in the world.
The Saudis and their Gulf allies spend eight times more than Iran on weapons.
What are the Saudis doing with all these weapons?
Bombing civilians in Yemen, for one. The Saudis, with our bombs and our refueling planes, bombed a funeral procession, wounding over 400 and killing 150. Last year, Saudi bombs killed 40 children on a school bus.
The Saudis with our support have blockaded Hodeidah, a port necessary to import food to a starving population. As a consequence of the Yemeni civil war, 17 million people face starvation.
In addition, the Saudis indiscriminately fed arms into the Syrian civil war. Even Hillary Clinton admitted in an email to John Podesta: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.”
Let’s repeat that so no one misses the point. Hillary Clinton admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were funding and arming ISIS!
Hillary Clinton further sent another State Department cable in December 2009 that read “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda [and] the Taliban . . .”
As Patrick Cockburn concludes, the emails reveal “the State Department and US intelligence clearly had no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Isis.”
To add insult to injury, there are now reports of the Saudi-led coalition giving American weapons to Al Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen, hardline Salafist militias – anyone willing to fight the Houthis.
So, on the one hand, Al Qaeda is the enemy that attacked us on 9/11, and on the other hand, we are told to turn a blind eye to U.S. arms going to Qatar and Saudi Arabia and winding up in the hands of ISIS!
What sane person would sell arms to a regime that kills, tortures and imprisons dissidents?
The Saudis routinely behead and crucify their opponents. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was executed, and his nephew sits on death row accused of sending texts to encourage people to attend a protest rally.
Since the 1980s, the Saudis are estimated to have spent $100 billion exporting a radical jihadism that preaches hatred of Jews, Christians, and Hindus.
The Saudis fund tens of thousands of madrassas teaching hatred and violence against the West. At one of these madrassas, it is said that 80 percent of the students join the Taliban to fight the Americans.
What sane person would give such people nuclear technology?
News reports reveal that the administration authorized giving U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia weeks after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
More nuclear technology was approved even after the CIA concluded that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered the assassination.
One cannot overstate the calamity that awaits the Middle East, and perhaps the world, if Saudi Arabia should misuse “peaceful” nuclear technology in pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Without question, Iran would follow. A Middle East with three different countries possessing nuclear weapons is not something any sane person would want to contemplate.
Thursday’s vote is not directly about selling arms to Saudi Arabia, but indirectly the vote is about the wisdom of proliferating arms in the Middle East.
Thursday’s vote is specifically about disapproving U.S. arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain.
Is Qatar a good actor in the Middle East?
There are dozens of reports that U.S. weapons sold to Qatar wound up in the hands of al-Nusra and even ISIS. Additionally, Qatar has been linked to support for Hamas.
Former Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David Cohen, has said: “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas. ...” Cohen also noted that Qatar allows fundraisers to solicit donations for Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Many sources claim that Qatar has provided safe haven for Al Qaeda leadership.
Qatar is so distrusted that even the bone-saw-wielding Saudis think that it’s unwise to sell arms to Qatar.
The Saudis, no strangers to supporting terrorism, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar over allegations that Qatar was supporting terrorism.
In the chaotic aftermath of the United States overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Qatar arms the Islamist-leaning factions, while Egypt and the UAE arm the other side.
No one disputes that Qatar has armed Al Qaeda and other radical groups throughout the Middle East.
How much of a risk is it to sell arms to Qatar? Only time will tell.
Thursday’s vote will also address selling arms to Bahrain.
Some will maintain that we have to sell them arms because they let us use their country as a naval base.
That’s one way of looking at it.
Another view, though, might consider that Bahrain has 4,000 political prisoners.
Bahrain bans political opposition parties. Opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman is imprisoned for life. A student leader was sentenced to death for protesting government policy. Nabeel Rajab was given five years in prison for exposing and tweeting about torture in Bahraini prisons. Famous Bahraini football player Hakeem Al-Araibi was arrested on his honeymoon in Thailand and held for 76 days until international pressure secured his release.
In January, prominent Shiite cleric Sayed Majeed Al-Meshaal was arrested for criticizing extrajudicial killings by the Bahraini government.
Should we send offensive weapons to a regime that uses violence to quell political dissent?
Should we send offensive weapons to a regime that is waging a war against civilians in Yemen?
Should we send offensive weapons to a regime that tortures and unjustly imprisons and outlaws its political opponents?
The facts are not contested. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain have allowed U.S. arms to be funneled to radical Islamist groups throughout the Middle East.
Dumping more weapons into the Middle East won’t get us any closer to peace.
This week the Senate will vote on a pair of resolutions that would put a halt on future weapons sales to Bahrain and Qatar. I hope that every senator will vote to support S.J. Res. 20 and 26 which would stop the arms race. I strongly urge all my colleagues to vote “Yes.” Dumping more weapons into the Middle East won’t get us any closer to peace.
A “yes” vote is a vote for sanity.
A “yes” vote is a vote to quit sending arms to human rights abusers.
A “yes” vote is a vote against aiding and abetting the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
A “yes” vote is a vote for finally restoring Congress’ proper role as a check on executive power.
Our Founding Fathers were wary of granting presidents too much power.
James Madison wrote that the executive is the branch of government “most prone” to war. Therefore, the Constitution, “with studied care,” granted the power to declare war to Congress.
I urge a “yes” vote to help restore a semblance of the Separation of Powers necessary to preserve our great republic.