On Friday, the Trump administration declared an emergency, allowing them to bypass Congress and fast-track billions of dollars of arms sales to several countries – including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Jordan – in an attempt to deter “the malign influence” of Iran in the Middle East. The decision was formally announced by the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Pompeo in a statement. According to a report by CNN, the value of the sales is $8.1 billion.
In a letter sent to Congress on Friday, Pompeo stated that he “determined that an emergency exists, which requires the immediate sale of the defense articles and defense services” to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE “in order to deter further the malign influence of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.”
The decision came on the same day as an announcement, made by President Donald Trump, that said an additional 1,500 US troops would be sent to the Middle East to “deter Iran.”
In his statement, Pompeo said that “today’s action will quickly augment our partners’ capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to US posture in the region to deter Iran.”
In total, the State Department reportedly lists over 20 proposed arms sales.
The Trump administration’s decision to use Section 36 of the Arms Control Act – which enables the White House to bypass the 30-day notification period to Congress for arms sales by declaring an emergency, effectively blocking Congress from being able to put arms deals on hold – drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Many lawmakers question the precedent the decision sets and the claim that the situation qualifies as an emergency. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record was also raised as an issue, along with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist.
Pompeo noted in his statement that he intends “this determination to be a one-time event.” He also stated that, since 1979, the emergency provision has been used by four previous administrations and that “this specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress.”
“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” said Pompeo.
“These national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of Congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit.”