Sen. Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul will soon offer a bipartisan floor resolution in the Senate objecting to a portion of the Trump administration’s new $110 billion military arms deal with Saudi Arabia, arguing such weapons will likely exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and damage America’s national security.

In a media conference call on Thursday, Paul and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut explained that the resolution will object to a small percentage of the new arms deal pertaining to precision-guided munitions, as such weapons are likely to primary be used within the civil war in Yemen. Backed by America, Saudi Arabia has targeted civilians with these munitions in that country, where at least 4,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed. Both Senators said the conflict has added to the country’s famine, where seven million people are at severe risk of starving, with locals being radicalized and turned against the U.S. as ISIS and al-Qaeda build a footprint within the chaos.

“For every potential terrorist killed there, you may be creating 10,” said Paul. “The famine will be seen as the result of Saudi bombing with American help. We’re refueling planes, we’re giving them munitions, we’re giving an array of weapons.”

Paul added that he is concerned such arms sales to Saudi Arabia will cause Iran to more aggressively develop its ballistic missile system and that these weapons might find their way into the hands of radical Sunni groups in the region.

The arms deal brokered by President Donald Trump this weekend while in Saudi Arabia will allow for the immediate transfer of $110 billion in American weapons, with a total of $350 billion in weapons to come over the next 10 years. Murphy said that former President Obama at the end of his term decided against selling precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia because the country refused to stop using them on civilians, but Trump put in “no strings attached to this arms sale… thus, these munitions we are selling will be used to increase the humanitarian catastrophe.”

In a Breitbart op-ed opposing the deal on Wednesday, Paul referenced concern over his similar effort last year that cutting off Saudi arms sales would risk arms industry-related jobs, stating that defense contractors should not dictate policy — especially when those arms go to “a country that doesn’t share our values or enhance any strategic vital interest of America”

“President Eisenhower warned our nation during his farewell address to be very wary of the military industrial complex and its encroachment on civil society,” wrote Paul. “The moment when the best interests of defense contractors start determining what is in the national security interest of our country, the tail has begun to wag the dog.”

Some of the precision-guided bombs in the deal include the Paveway II and III weapons systems and Joint Direct Attack Munitions that turn conventional bombs into smart bombs — both of which are manufactured by Raytheon. Louisville is the home of one of Raytheon’s manufacturing plants, which was expanded last year to include the future production of offensive missiles fired from ships. Several hundred are employed by Raytheon in Louisville, just a fraction of their 61,000 employees nationwide.

Paul noted that due to the terms of a 1976 arms export law, Senate leadership must allow a debate and vote on the floor of the Senate for their resolutions, which he said provided a good opportunity to discuss issues related to foreign policy that are often neglected.

“This resolution allows us to have an overall discussion about the Middle East, which has been lacking here, and a discussion about Saudi Arabia involvement in Yemen,” said Paul. “And the great thing about it is, it can’t be avoided by leadership on either side… I look forward to joining Sen. Murphy in talking about the Middle East and I look forward to the debate.”

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not return an email seeking comment on Paul’s resolution.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]