WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday bypassed Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, citing a threat from Iran, infuriating lawmakers who fear the weapons could kill civilians in Yemen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration would circumvent the required review by Congress to approve 22 arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, saying that the freeze on sales by Congress could affect the Arab allies’ operational abilities.
The weapons, which include munitions and aircraft support maintenance, are meant “to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The sale was announced earlier Friday by Senator Robert Menendez, who had used his powers to block shipments of tens of thousands of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, fearing they would contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the US allies are mounting an offensive.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
He said that the administration failed to meet the legal definition of an emergency as he vowed to work with lawmakers to counter the decision.
“The lives of millions of people depend on it,” Menendez said.
Another senior Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said that the United States needed to rein in rather than give more weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudi-led war in Yemen is not an emergency, it is a crime against humanity,” she said in a statement.
The sales come after Trump vetoed an attempt by Congress to stop US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where tens of thousands have died and millions are at risk of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
Pompeo has resolutely defended the US support for the Saudis, noting that the Huthi rebels who control much of Yemen are allied with US adversary Iran and saying that Huthi rocket attacks into Saudi Arabia could kill Americans taking commercial flights.
Carolyn Miles, president of relief group Save the Children, said that while all sides are at fault, “arms sales to the Saudi/Emirati coalition will increase the suffering of starving children in Yemen.”
Accountability court acquits PTI’s Babar Awan
ISLAMABAD: PTI’s leader Babar Awan has been acquitted by an accountability court here today in Nandipur PP corruption reference.
It is pertinent to mention here that the accountability court has not entertained the acquittal appeal of Ex-PM Raja Pervez Ashraf.
One may recall that last year NAB had filed a case accusing Babar Awan, Raja Pervez Ashraf and many others. The charges included causing losses worth billions of rupees to the national exchequer by means of delay according approval to the in Nandipur PP project.
SHC grants bail to Sharjeel Memon
KARACHI: SHC has today granted bail to Sharjeel Memon (former Sindh Information Minister) in a corruption reference.
The reference pertains to abusing power by means of awarding advertisements at exorbitant rates. However, the IO had conceded during today’s hearing before the court that it had not been proven that Memon had received kickbacks from the deal.
The two-member bench after hearing the arguments granted bail to Sharjeel Memon against a surety of Rs. 5 million. One may recall that a NAB team nabbed Memon on 23rd October following SHC’s rejection of his bail application.
Relevant pieces published earlier:
KARACHI: A two-judge SHC bench has rejected the interim bail application of former information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and other 12 co-accused in a graft case here today.
According to details, following the NAB special persecutor’s arguments regarding the corruption case against Sharjeel Memon and others, the court has accepted the bail of one of the thirteen accused only.
Sharjeel Memon is accused of inflicting losses to the national exchequer by resorting to corrupt practices in granting (SID) advertisements – related to awareness – to the electronic media between July 2013 till 2015.
He will be arrested by the NAB team as soon as he emerges from SHC building as legally one could not be detained from the premises of the court.
Readers may recall that Sharjeel Memon is also facing charges in connection with illegal allotment of land.
It is pertinent to mention here that Memon fled the country in 2015 when NAB commenced an inquiry against him regarding five billion rupee corruption. But he returned to Pakistan last March and managed to obtain interim bail.
Pak role in Afghan peace process lauded by SG of NATO
BRUSSELS: Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting with Pakistani FM Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi has noted that Pakistan had played a positive role in regional peace.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO wanted to work with Pakistan on bilateral understanding.
GS NATO and FM Pakistan profoundly discussed security matters being faced by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir.
Relevant pieces published earlier:
BRUSSELS: Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister (FM) of Pakistan, has arrived here today on a two-day official visit.
Here he will be signing a comprehensive strategic plan with EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. He will also meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at its headquarters in Brussels.
ISLAMABAD: FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi has informed that a strategic plan had been agreed with the European Union (EU).
FM said this while talking to the journalists here today before leaving for Brussels. FM further told that he would sign this agreement with EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. Terming it a positive development Qureshi said it would begin long-term cooperation with the EU.
Qureshi, who is scheduled to meet NATO General Secretary at its headquarters in Brussels, said Pakistan had been cooperating with NATO and extended unprecedented help to US and NATO forces in matters pertaining to Afghanistan. FM reiterated that Pakistan had played a key role in the war against terrorism and NATO had acknowledged that fact.
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