Following a bipartisan bid to prevent the sale of more than $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, the Senate voted Tuesday to uphold a previous deal struck by the Trump administration. During a May visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump approved a $110 billion arms package to supply the nation with numerous defense items—including tanks, fighter planes, combat ships, and precision-guided bombs—over the next ten years. Last week, the U.S. State Department cleared a portion of the deal that included $1.4 billion in military training and equipment. With these sales, the administration hopes to create U.S. jobs while improving Saudi Arabia’s ability to challenge regional adversaries like Iran.
Saudi Arabia is currently leading a war on Yemen that began in 2015 when the Houthis, a Shiite militant group presumably aided by Iran, wrested control of the Yemeni government from the former Saudi-backed president. Considering the move to be a coup d'état, Saudi Arabia proceeded to carry out airstrikes in the region that have since killed thousands of civilians. The nation’s naval blockade has also left two thirds of Yemen’s population—around 18.8 million people—without vital humanitarian aid, and has deprived more than 7 million people of sufficient food and water. In October 2016, the Obama administration temporarily halted the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia after the nation bombed a funeral hall in Yemen, killing more than 140 people. “They’re not picking the right targets,” an administration official told Reuters at the time.