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Amash seeks to block latest sale of weapons to Saudis

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — West Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash is leading an effort in the U.S. House to block the proposed sale of $500 million worth of precision-guided munitions and other offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Amash, who represents the Grand Rapids area, introduced a resolution Thursday with Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan disapproving of the sale, joined by Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky; Barbara Lee, D-California; Walter Jones, R-North Carolina; and Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts.

A bipartisan group in the Senate — Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky; Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut; and Al Franken, D-Minnesota — have introduced companion legislation in that chamber.

“Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records and has supported many of the extremists terrorizing the people of the Middle East and the world,” Amash said in a statement.

“These arms sales extend a reckless policy from the Obama administration and prior administrations, and they come at a time when the Saudi government is escalating a gruesome war in Yemen.”

Some of the weapons are meant to aid the Saudis in the conflict in Yemen, where they lead a coalition against the Iran-allied rebels, according to the Associated Press.

Pocan criticized Saudi Arabia over recurring reports that its military airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians in war-torn Yemen, saying President Donald Trump’s proposed weapons sale “sends the wrong message to Saudi Arabia.”

“In addition to regularly dropping U.S. bombs on Yemeni civilians, Saudi Arabia appears to have every intention of using the U.S. weapons from this sale to enforce a blockade on Yemen that prevents food and medicine from reaching millions of people on the brink of starvation,” Pocan said in a statement.

The State Department announced it had finalized a separate, $110 billion sale of military equipment and training ahead of Trump’s visit last weekend to Saudi Arabia. Amash is also opposed to that sale.

“This package of defense equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats,” the State Department said in its release Saturday.

“This package demonstrates the United States’ commitment to our partnership with Saudi Arabia, while also expanding opportunities for American companies in the region, potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.”

mburke@detroitnews.com