Foreign Policy

Pompeo Lied About “Emergency” Arms Sales to Saudis

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Although a surprisingly bipartisan Congress opposed increased arms sales to Saudi Arabia to fuel their war in Yemen last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was able to approve the sale for Trump by declaring it an "emergency" sale. Declaring it an emergency made it legal for the executive branch to move forward without congressional approval.

But there was no emergency.

The Inspector General's report on the matter released to the public makes it appear that Pompeo responded to the "emergency" threat within two days, but the unredacted version of the report makes it clear that there was no real urgency.

For instance, an unredacted timeline shows that State Department staffers proposed using emergency authorities on April 3, 2019, that drafts of the emergency certification were circulated 20 days later, and that it wasn’t until May 4 that Pompeo directed that the emergency be certified by May 24.

The report released online, however, said Pompeo briefed Congress on Iranian threats on May 21, approved the paperwork two days later and then certified that the emergency authorization was transmitted to Congress the next day.

In essence, the public version gives the impression that Pompeo moved quickly on an urgent issue, whereas the unredacted version shows a much longer timeframe of deliberation and action, undermining the argument that an emergency existed at all.

Moreover, the vast majority of the arms had not even been transferred by last fall.

According to the unredacted report, by the time the inspector general began reviewing what happened in October, “foreign partners had taken full delivery of 4 of the 22 arms transfer cases included in the May 2019 emergency.” The low number of full deliveries, which was redacted in the public version of the report at State’s insistence, also raises questions about how much of an emergency was in play in the first place.

In a normal administration or at least a Democratic one, this would lead to resignations and a years-long investigation by Republicans, but for us it's just another Wednesday.

There will be no resignations and nary a peep about this from the right because this was done in furtherance of Trump and Jared Kushner's personal relationships with the Saudis.

I don't know what the Biden administration's foreign policy priorities will be and to some extent that is a secondary concern because we have much bigger fish to fry here at home with the ongoing pandemic, but I sincerely hope our next era does not include Saudi Arabia. It's several decades past time to leave them to their own devices. We don't need their oil or their cancerous authoritarianism.

In a quickly emerging post-oil world of electric cars and American energy independence, the only thing the Saudis have to offer is their opposition to Iranian influence, but we don't need that either. Trump's decision to unilaterally abandon the Iran nuclear deal set a series of disasters in motion and it's time to bring the deal back. It's time to move forward without the Middle Eastern pissing contest.

The Inspector General's report also says the State Department did not take civilian causalities into account when approving the arms sales, but I take that as a given. Of course they didn't.

  • muselet

    There was no emergency?

    Quelle surprise.

    Actually, there was an emergency: Saudi Arabia was running low on munitions with which to kill Yemenis, and Donald Trump couldn’t let that happen to one of his best buds, Mohammed bin Salman (who started the war on Yemen in 2015, when he was Defense Minister). Besides, hey, only a third of Saudi bombing targets are civilian in nature (hospitals, apartment blocks, that sort of thing), and what’s a hundred thousand (as of last October) Yemeni deaths when there’s oil to be bought?

    By arming the Saudis, the US is complicit in war crimes, and conveniently-redacted IG reports won’t change that. When this nightmare is over, the entire administration, down to the Third Deputy Assistant Undersecretary of State for Middle East Meddling, should face charges of crimes against humanity.