The Trump administration on Friday invoked a rarely used provision in federal law to bypass congressional review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing threats the kingdom faces from Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress of the decision to use an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers' approval. Pompeo said, the AP reports, "that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale" of the weapons "to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region." He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism."
Pompeo's move follows President Trump's announcement that the U.S. will send 1,500 additional U.S. troops to the Middle East in response to an unspecified threat from Iran. Democratic critics of the Saudi campaign denounced Friday's step. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said the administration did not cite a specific legal or practical reason for using the loophole other than Iran. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the administration was only declaring an emergency because lawmakers would have blocked the transfers. "There is no new 'emergency' reason to sell bombs to the Saudis," Murphy said. There is precedent for using the exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia: President Ronald Reagan and Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush invoked it.
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