President Donald Trump vetoed three bills meant to block emergency weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday amid widespread outcry from lawmakers furious with the ongoing civil war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“This resolution would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners,” the president wrote. “The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end. But we cannot end it through ill-conceived and time-consuming resolutions that fail to address its root causes.”
In his vetoes, Trump also stood by his close relationship with the Saudis, declaring the country “a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region.”
The vetoes are Trump’s fourth, fifth and sixth of his presidency. It’s unlikely Congress has enough votes to override them.
The House of Representatives approved three separate resolutions last week, largely along party lines, that had previously passed the Senate. They would have stopped the sale of billions of dollars of precision-guided weapons to the Saudis and Emiratis.
Lawmakers have been livid with the Trump administration’s refusal to hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of Khashoggi, which American intelligence agencies say was ordered by the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis have also been castigated for their role in the bloody Yemini civil war that has resulted in heavy civilian casualties. Riyadh has used American-made weapons in that conflict.
Trump’s last veto came in April over a resolution that would have ended U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s military effort in Yemen.
Trump approved the emergency sale in May, which would include about $8 billion in weaponry. The White House declared a national emergency to do so amid tensions with Iran over the country’s nuclear program, sidestepping Congress in the process.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the emergency declaration and sale was meant to be a “one-time” event, saying he hoped it would help deter Iran by helping arm key American allies in the Middle East and support “stability” in the region.