Corker wades into Qatar controversy

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Monday said he would block future U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf nations until a regional conflict is resolved, reports Politico.

The Tennessee Republican announced his plans in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday as the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council remains wracked by internal disputes over anti-terrorism efforts and a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Corker’s gavel grants him advance approval of significant arms sales to foreign governments before Congress is notified, authority also held by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

“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 ISIS and counter Iran,” Corker wrote.

“For these reasons, 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.”

The Senate voted 47-53 earlier this month against a bipartisan measure that would have blocked about $500 million in Trump administration weapons sales to Riyadh, with most Democrats and four Republicans registering concern over Saudi involvement in Yemen’s bloody civil war. In addition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, GCC members are the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Corker’s move would not block the $500 million in weapons sales, which had already been noticed to Congress and which had been targeted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

President Donald Trump last month touted a $110 billion package of arms deals with Riyadh during his overseas travel to Saudi Arabia, but some sales counted in that group include previously stated commitments.

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