Wed, 13 Nov 2019

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has introduced a bill that would punish Saudi Arabia for human rights violations, but does not block arms sales to the kingdom.

Republican James Risch of Idaho says the bipartisan Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act calls for a comprehensive look at U.S.-Saudi relations and holds members of the royal family accountable for human rights abuses - including journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, women's rights violations, and coalition airstrikes in Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians.

"It is the sense of Congress that since the promotion of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of Crown Prince with significant authorities over foreign and domestic affairs ... Saudi Arabia has demonstrated increasingly erratic and disturbing conduct," the bill states.

It asks President Donald Trump to deny or revoke visas for members of the royal family until its human rights record improves.

But to assure Trump's signature, the bill would not stop U.S. arms sales to the Saudis.

"We must discourage Iran aggression and must not leave Saudi Arabia vulnerable," Risch said. "Our partners desperately need the capabilities in these sales complemented by other U.S. training and advising initiatives to improve their ability to minimize collateral damage and deter aggression."

Congress recently voted to block billions of dollars in arms sales to several allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - two key members of the coalition helping Yemen fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Lawmakers have passed resolutions against the president's emergency declaration, which allows him to skip congressional review of the arms sales.

The president has called the weapons sales to Middle East allies important for U.S. jobs and a measure to counter what he sees as a threat from Iran.

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