The $110 billion defense deal President Donald Trump signed with Saudi Arabia is a "terrible idea," as it means his administration is counting on the wrong country to bring peace to the Middle East, Sen. Chris Murphy said Saturday.
“It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East," the Connecticut Democrat complained in a HuffPost opinion piece.
The deal includes precision-guided munitions that President Barack Obama refused to sell to the Saudis because they had been using munitions provided by the United States "to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites inside Yemen," said Murphy, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Obama, however, had sold more weapons and gear to Saudi Arabia in eight years than had all previous administrations combined, with the exception of the precision weapons Trump's deal allowed.
"Thousands of civilians inside Yemen have been killed during the civil war, many by the Saudi-led coalition, and today, the country is on the brink of famine in part because the Saudis have intentionally destroyed transit hubs and key bridges, and blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid," said Murphy.
"More — not fewer — civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table," he continued. "They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them."
Murphy also insisted the Saudis will not use the weapons to target extremists such as the Islamic State or al Qaeda, as its proxy wars in places like Yemen, plus its obsession with Iran, means they will have little time to go after the terrorists.
Instead, the weapons will escalate tensions, including causing Iran to boost its nuclear program, he said.
"Why is it in our interest to be such an active participant in this regional conflict?" said Murphy. "What do we have to gain by going in so enthusiastically with the Sunnis against the Shia in their fight for power in the Middle East? This isn’t our fight, and history suggests the U.S. military meddling in the Middle East ends up great for U.S. military contractors, but pretty miserable for everyone else."
The $110 billion being spent would be better used on other priorities, he continued, conceding that "this is the Saudis' money" being discussed.
"We shouldn’t just assume that the path to global security is through the spread of more and more weapons,” said Murphy,pointing to Africa and saying such money could be spent on furthering education.
"Terrorist groups thrive on economic destitution in Africa, and often this destitution is connected to abysmal levels of education and lack of opportunity," he said. "So try this on for size: $110 billion could educate every single one of the 30 million African primary school age children who has no access to school today...for five years."
Murphy also complained that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has "zero experience in foreign relations generally, or Saudi arms sales specifically," negotiated the deal.
Saudi Arabia, Murphy concluded, is an important American ally, but still a "deeply imperfect friend" to trust with the weapons included in Trump's deal.
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