The POMED Wire

Bipartisan Legislation Seeks Conditions for U.S.-Saudi Arms Sales

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In effort to increase scrutiny of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT)and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)have introduced a bill that would set conditions for U.S. military support, requiring presidential certification that Saudi Arabia is meeting certain standards prior to approving arms sales. Current law outlined in the Arms Export Control Act dictates that the sale or transfer of arms to foreign governments by the United States must be proposed by the U.S. State Department and then approved by Congress. Upon approval, the Administration is then permitted to implement the transfer. The Murphy-Paul legislation would further require the U.S. President to “attest that Saudi Arabia is concretely demonstrating its anti-terror efforts and protection of civilians before Congress can consider the sale.” This additional step is intended to assess whether Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-origin munitions in airstrikes in Yemen and evaluate how transfer of arms to the Kingdom can contribute to U.S. national security objectives, if at all.

“Saudi Arabia is an important partner, but we must acknowledge when a friend’s actions aren’t in our national interest,” Murphy said in a press release. “It’s time that we put real conditions on our military aid to the Saudis, …

POMED Event Notes – Saudi Arabia’s Regional Role and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations

On Wednesday, April 6, POMED hosted an event titled “Saudi Arabia’s Regional Role and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations.” The discussion was moderated by Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research at POMED, and included remarks bu Andrea Prasow, Deputy Washington Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW); Ambassador Stephen Seche, the Executive Vice President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW); and Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of POMED.

Ms. Hawthorne opened the discussion with a reference to President Obama’s first visit to Saudi Arabia, which preceded his visits to all other regional countries including Egypt, and which was representative of how U.S.-Saudi relations would then progress during the Obama Administration’s tenure. Relations have become strained in recent years, exacerbated by uprisings in Egypt and and  the Iran Deal, both which have contributed to a regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to Hawthorne, two of the major issues that the administration sees in Saudi Arabia are the marginalized youth, which has become a larger threat to both the Saudi government and the region, as well as the how the U.S.-Saudi relationship might impact the fight against terrorism.

Ms. Prasow spoke on human rights …

Erdogan’s Washington Visit Attracts Criticism, Protest

obama and erdogan

During Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Washington, no official bilateral meeting was scheduled with President Obama. The White House reportedly declined a meeting, although Erdogan met with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, and analysts have explained that this “high profile snub” or “cool reception” from the White House is an indication that the United States is frustrated with Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism. “Mr. Erdogan has alienated some allies by overseeing a crackdown on domestic critics and waging a new fight with Kurdish insurgents,” remarked Dion Nissinbaum and Carol Lee in the Wall Street Journal.

Before an address at the Brookings Institution, Turkish security guards clashed with protesters and journalists, reminding many of the intensified crackdown on journalism and political dissent within Turkey over the last few months and “damaging [efforts] to improve his government’s image in the US.” Asked about the incident, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said “our position on this matter, whether here in the United States obviously, but also in Turkey, it is that we respect and support the right for there to be independent journalism.” In his speech, President Erdogan criticized U.S. support for Kurdish forces …

Hearing Notes — Human Rights Threatened, Self-Determination Deferred: The Status of Western Sahara

On Wednesday March 23, 2016, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission met for a hearing titled “Human Rights Threatened, Self-Determination Deferred: The Status of Western Sahara.” Witnesses included Ms. Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center for Justice and Human Rights; Mr. Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s MENA Division; Mr. Erik Hagen, Board Member at  Western Sahara Resource Watch; and Mr. Francesco Bastagli, the UN’s Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara. To watch a webcast of the hearing, click here.

Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA) opened the hearing with a description of the current political situation in the Western Sahara, which began when Spain ceded control of the territory in 1975 to Morocco, doing so without “taking into account the wishes of the people of Western Sahara.” He described years of violence after an organized, mass migration of Moroccan citizens into Western Sahara; the 1991 UN-brokered ceasefire; the formation of MIINURSO; and the “tens of thousands of Sahrawis [who] have been left to live in refugee camps while they await an opportunity to vote on their future.” He described this as a critical moment for the people …

Temporary Ceasefire Reached in Yemen, Saudis Scale Back Offensive

Photo Credit: Reuters

Houthi rebels and Yemen’s internationally recognized government have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire before the next round of peace negotiations are slated to begin in April, after talks led by UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Sanaa. Officials said that the Houthis have agreed to comply with a UN Security Council resolution that requires them to surrender weapons and withdraw from territory.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that it would begin to “scale back” military operations in Yemen, where the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded a total of 9,000 casualties in Yemen over a year. The Saudis will continue to provide air support to forces fighting the Houthis and ousted-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but will decrease its ground presence to “small” teams, according to Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri. The United States welcomed the move. The UN Human Rights Chief  Zeid Raad al- Hussein continues to urge the Saudi-led coalition to”to publish transparent, independent investigations” into the civilian casualties and potential war crimes in Yemen.

In recent weeks, the United States has come under increased scrutiny from human rights organizations for its involvement in the coalition, and groups …

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