A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would halt US arms exports to Saudi Arabia as a response to the “barbaric” murder of Jamal Khashoggi, continued detention of activists and “indiscriminate” bombing campaign in Yemen.
The “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018” bill was introduced on Thursday by Bob Menendez and Todd Young along with Jack Reed, Lindsey Graham, Jeanne Shaheen, and Susan Collins.
The senators referred to the US Treasury Department’s Thursday decision to impose economic sanctions on 17 Saudis involved in the murder of Khashoggi, as well as an earlier announcement of an end to US refueling of Saudi aircraft bombing Yemen, and said the measures were not enough.
The United States on Thursday placed punishing economic sanctions on 17 Saudis involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for its increasingly brazen behavior,” Senator Reed, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
“Ending aerial refueling support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and imposing sanctions on some Saudi officials who participated in the murder of US resident Jamal Khashoggi are welcome, but not sufficient.”
Menendez also said the decision to suspend aerial refueling for the Saudi coalition absent an actual strategy for ending this conflict is an empty action.
“That is why this bill makes clear that Congress demands an immediate cessation of hostilities, urgently calls on all parties to prioritize protection of Yemeni civilians, and makes certain that only a political settlement will end this war,” he noted.
Senator Shaheen said Saudi Arabia’s “barbaric murder of Jamal Khashoggi, continued detention of activists and indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen merit a strong, bipartisan response,” and the bill can deliver such a response.
The bill would require sanctions within 30 days on anyone involved in Khashoggi’s death, including “any official of the government of Saudi Arabia or member of the royal family” determined to be involved.
It would also require a report within 30 days on the kingdom’s human rights record.
Although the Thursday sanctions imposed by the US Treasury were unusual for Washington, which rarely imposes sanctions on Saudi nationals, they did not target the Riyadh government or affect America’s lucrative arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
US weapons dealers are worried Congress might block billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist in Turkey.
Turkey has more evidence on Khashoggi murder
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Friday that a second voice recording – said to be 15 minutes – clearly reveals that the murder of the Washington Post columnist had been premeditated.
That would contradict the statement of the Saudi prosecutor who said on Thursday that five Saudi officials faced the death penalty on charges of killing Khashoggi but exonerated the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement in the murder.
Abdulkadir Selvi, pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet daily, said key findings in the Saudi prosecutor’s statement did not overlap with the evidence in the hands of Turkey including two voice recordings.
He said the first 7-minute voice recording proves that Khashoggi was strangled but the second tape recorded shortly before the journalist stepped into the consulate clearly shows the murder was planned in advance.
The second tape proves the 15-member “killer team” seated inside the consulate before Khashoggi’s arrival was discussing how to carry out the murder, he said.
Turkey has also evidence that the team made international calls after the murder, he added.
Khashoggi, 59, a critic of the crown prince, was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkey has said the murder was carried out by a team of Saudis who traveled to Istanbul for that purpose.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order came from “the highest levels” of the Riyadh government, but stopped short of pointing the finger of blame at the crown prince.