Exclusive–Rand Paul to Force Senate Saudi Arms Sales Showdown

Andrew A. Nelles/AP
Andrew A. Nelles/AP

The Kentucky GOP senator who ran for president in the 2016 cycle told Breitbart News he and three other senators plan to file a privileged motion on the Senate floor Wednesday–compelling the chamber to vote on whether to block sales of war materiel to Saudi Arabia.

One problem is that in the recent past, the Saudis have transferred arms from the United States to radial Islamic groups opposed to the United States, said Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.), who is filing his motion with Sen. Michael S. Lee (R.-Utah), Sen. Christopher Murphy (D.-Conn.), and Sen. Al Franken (D.-Minn.).

Paul spoke to Breitbart News shortly before his presentation with Murphy regarding the motion to a select audience of senior members of the capital’s national security community at Washington’s Center for the National Interest, formally the Nixon Center.

The Kentuckian said this is an important issue for both Republicans and Democrats to work on together.

“You know, I work across the aisle with several Democrats,” he said. “This is one issue where left and right can come together–and we don’t agree with every other issue, but with this particular issue, I think we can work together well.”

Paul said the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 gives Congress the authority to block specific arms transactions, and in this case a package approved by the State Department that includes 153 Abrams tanks, 20 armored battlefield support and recovery vehicles, in addition to $200 million for military training and $155 million for Gatling-style shipboard defense systems.

The Defense One news site reported that the Saudis ordered the tanks to replace part of the 400 tanks they lost fighting in Yemen against the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels armed with Iranian anti-tank weapons systems.

The senator said America’s relationship is mixed bag.

“I would call them a frenemy,” he said. “Part enemy, part friend depending on which day.”

Saudi Arabia spends tremendous amounts of money supporting education programs in their own country and other countries–including the United States–that foster hatred and resentment of the United States, he said.

Many of the radicals in Al Qaeda and Islamic State grew up learning to hate America and Americans through these Saudi-sponsored programs, he said.

Arms purchased from the United States by the Saudi kingdom end up in the hands of radical Islamists on the battlefields of Syria, which led to the current refugee crisis from that country, in addition to the refugee problem created by the Saudi war in Yemen, the senator said.

“Then, they take no refugees,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has taken zero refugees and that really annoys me–I think they should be first in line and then, when they are completely full of refugees, then we can look elsewhere.”

On the other hand, the Saudis can be friends, he said. “They often come in after the fact and try to be helpful.”