Any further US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia or other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will be on hold until the current dispute with Qatar is resolved, said the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tennessee).
In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday, Corker said he “could not have been more pleased” by President Donald Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia and the summit meeting with heads of other Gulf Arab states.
However, the GCC “did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict,” Corker wrote, referring to the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar initiated three weeks ago.
“Before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC,” Corker wrote.
I will withhold consent on future arms sales to GCC until a path to resolve the dispute is established. My letter: https://t.co/PTOlC5Wcmk.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) June 26, 2017
Major US arms sales are subject to preliminary approval by the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees before the statutory 30-day congressional review process can start.
Corker’s withdrawal of consent effectively blocks any further weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), though it is unclear from his letter whether Egypt is similarly affected.
The hold only applies to future arms sales, and does not affect the $510 million deal narrowly approved by the Senate on June 13.
“All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight [Islamic State] and counter Iran,” Corker wrote.
Led by Saudi Arabia, a number of GCC and African countries cut diplomatic relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing the government in Doha of financing terrorism, ties with Iran, and interfering in the internal affairs of other states.
They also imposed a trade blockade of Qatar, a travel ban on Qatari nationals, and even deported 15,000 Qatari-owned camels from their summer pastures in Saudi Arabia.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain sent Qatar a list of 13 demands, including restricting diplomatic relations with Iran, closing down a Turkish military base on its territory, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and closing down Al Jazeera. Qatar was given a 10-day deadline to comply.
With a total blockade on movement of people and goods from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, Qatar has been increasingly relying on food deliveries from Turkey and Iran. Some 1,100 tons of fruits and vegetables are supplied by Iran every day, according to the Iranian media.
Qatari officials have neither confirmed nor denied the deliveries from Iran, though they have acknowledged and praised Turkey’s shipments of poultry and dairy products.
Ankara has emerged as a major ally of Doha in the dispute, offering to deploy troops to Qatar. The Tariq bin Ziyad military base currently houses about 90 Turkish soldiers, according to Reuters.