A coalition of Democratic and Republican U.S. senators has introduced a resolution that would require the White House to critically assess Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and potentially re-evaluate American security assistance to the kingdom. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the resolution under a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act.
If passed, the measure could force the Biden administration to prepare a report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record within 30 days. If not, all security assistance to the country would stop. The act stipulates that Congress may adopt a joint resolution terminating, restricting or continuing security assistance to that country upon receipt of the report.
For decades, the State Department under several administrations has documented systematic human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. However, the relationship is complicated over the fact that the OPEC nation has been a vital partner and oil supplier for the U.S. since the early 1940s. Over the past several years however, U.S. oil imports have declined, and relations are shaky.
This push by U.S. lawmakers to check the country’s human rights practices and possibly pull security aid comes just days after the kingdom restored its diplomatic relations with Iran in a surprise deal brokered by China. This move has cast the U.S. and Beijing in a battle for influence in the region.
According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, in private, Saudi officials said, the crown expects that by “playing major powers against each other, Saudi Arabia can eventually pressure Washington to concede to its demands for better access to U.S. weapons and nuclear technology”.
The Saudis are “dealing with everyone — Israel and Iran, China and the US, Russia and the Europeans—and being quite ambiguous about what they want to do and what’s their ultimate goal,” Cinzia Bianco, Gulf research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank told The Wall Street Journal. “Create a lot of confusion where everyone keeps wondering what they’re really up to, that’s exactly the point,” he added.
The U.S. has reportedly authorized more than $100 billion in foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia between 2009 and 2020, per the Congressional Research Service. The Biden administration also recently approved the $3 billion sale of Patriot missiles to the kingdom.