RNA - The administration said it would proceed with 22 arms deals worth some $8 billion in spite of lawmakers' concerns about their use against civilians in Yemen, Senator Bob Menendez said Friday.
"Rather than stand up against those who murdered Jamal Khashoggi and are working against US interests, the Trump administration decided to do an end run around the Congress and possibly the law," Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
The decision is seen as a move that sweeps aside a long-standing precedent for congressional review of such sales.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump Administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Menendez said.
Menendez had used his powers to block sales of precision-guided bombs to the two Middle Eastern countries, fearing they would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
"The lives of millions of people depend on it," he added in his statement.
In addition, Republican Foreign Relations Committee chairman Senator Jim Risch said he had received formal notification of the Trump administration’s decision to go ahead with “a number of arms sales.”
“I am reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications,” Risch said in a statement.
Tensions started to mount between Tehran and Washington in May last year, when Trump pulled his country out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticisms.
The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washington's exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up the pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and sending military reinforcements, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, to the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Trump announced Friday he would deploy about 1,500 American troops to the Middle East region for "mostly protective" reasons.