Donald Trump vetoes resolutions prohibiting defence sales to Saudi and UAE

US President says the UAE is an active partner in the fight against terrorism

US President Donald Trump waves upon arrival in Wheeling, West  Virginia, on July 24, 2019. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM

US President Donald Trump issued three vetoes on Wednesday overriding Congress decisions and allowing arms and defence sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The White House announced late on Wednesday that Mr Trump vetoed Congressional joint resolutions 36, 37, and 38, which would have prohibited arms sales and defence licences to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Congress passed the bills two months ago, fuelled by the opposition to the war in Yemen, and the killing of the Saudi writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But without a Presidential authorisation, the resolutions could not become law, and are now returned to Congress for another vote.

To override Mr Trump’s veto, the lawmakers would need two thirds majority which is not expected.

He said the resolutions would “directly conflict with the foreign policy and national security objectives of the US, which include strengthening defence alliances with friendly countries throughout the world, deepening partnerships that preserve and extend our global influence, and enhancing our competitiveness in key markets".

Mr Trump said it was his duty to "protect the safety of the more than 80,000 US citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and are imperiled by Houthis attacking from Yemen using missiles, armed drones and explosive boats".

He called the UAE “an important part of the Saudi-led Coalition that helps to protect Americans from these Iranian-supported Houthi attacks on civilian and military facilities, including those in areas frequented by US citizens, such as the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia".

“The joint resolution would degrade the UAE's military preparedness and ability to protect its sovereignty, directly affecting its ability to defend the thousands of United States military personnel hosted there,” Mr Trump said.

He called the UAE “a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region", and “an active partner with the United States in battling terrorism in Yemen and elsewhere".

The UAE announced its plan to redeploy its troops in Yemen this month, and UN envoy Martin Griffiths made a trip to Washington last week to explore ways to end the conflict.

Mr Trump, said the US was "very concerned about the conflict's toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end".

This is the third time Mr Trump has used his veto to override Congressional resolutions.

Nicholas Heras, a senior fellow at the Centre for New American Security, told The National that "the Trump administration believes that cutting arms sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia during this heightened period of tensions with Iran sends the wrong signal".

Mr Heras said the move may draw those countries “into the arms of Russia".

He said the war “has entered an inflection point and the big problem is that the UAE and Saudi Arabia do not have the same mission there any more".

Mr Heras said that Riyadh now needed the Trump administration “to help clear the Houthis from the Saudi border as part of the US broader counter-Iran campaign".