Representative Malinowski Passes Amendment Freezing Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

July 12, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today the House passed Congressman Malinowski’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which will prohibit for one year the sale of air-to-ground munitions used in the conflict in Yemen to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Read the transcript of Congressman Malinowski’s remarks during floor debate on the amendment below and watch the video here.

“Let me begin by saying what this amendment will not do. It will not end our security relationship with Saudi Arabia. It will not prevent us from helping the Saudis defend themselves against the Houthis, or Iran, or anybody else. It won’t prevent us from working with them to deal with maritime threats in the Persian Gulf or from sharing intelligence about terrorism. It will not, in other words, preclude us from doing anything that is in America’s national security interest.

All it will do is stop something that is categorically harmful to our national interest: the provision of offensive weapons that enable Saudi Arabia to keep defying our advice by bombing Yemen and prolonging the war there.

There is a reason why people say this war has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis. More than 200,000 civilians have been killed or died of starvation. While the Houthis are to blame for much of this, Saudi and U.A.E. air strikes are responsible for 2/3rds of Yemeni civilian casualties.

There was a strike on a funeral, more than 150 civilians killed; A strike on a school bus that killed 40 kids; On a Save the Children Hospital; on a wedding. These were not mistakes - these were deliberate and precise attacks - and everybody in Yemen knows that the bombs causing this suffering are made in the United States.

Who benefits from this? Certainly not us. From a strategic perspective, the only winner is Iran. By making a relatively small investment in Yemen, the Iranians have drawn the Saudis into this quagmire which tarnishes them and the United States and pushes Yemenis into Iranian hands.

Over two administrations, the U.S. Government has tried to use its influence to change how Saudi Arabia fights this war. I know about this effort because I was in charge of it in 2015 and 2016 at the State Department. It was worth a try then, but the Saudis did not listen.

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations we have given the Saudis specific lists of targets not to strike. We have told them “Do not hit this specific hospital; Or this port facility; Or that bridge.” And then repeatedly they have gone ahead and hit the precise coordinates on our no-strike list. Then we just keep on selling them the bombs.

What does that say to the people of Yemen? What does it say to the leadership of Saudi Arabia?

Now, I know some have argued that if we want to protect civilians in Yemen it's better to at least make sure the Saudis have precision munitions to help them avoid collateral damage. This argument does not make sense. The Saudis are using our precision weapons to precisely hit the wrong targets.

Others have said that if we don't help the Saudis the Russians or Chinese will: that is nonsense. The Saudis use American aircraft. Last I checked you cannot service an F-15 with MiG Parts. They are for the foreseeable future utterly dependent on us.

So the question we have to decide is what kind of relationship are we going to have with Saudi Arabia? Is it one in which the Saudis can do whatever they please, contrary to our advice, contrary to our interests, knowing that whatever they do to us we will take it on ourselves to save the relationship? Or will we finally recognize that while we benefit from working with Saudi Arabia, the Saudis need us far more.

This is a measured amendment, Madam Chair. That deals with precisely the Saudi conduct that we most oppose without undermining our ability to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on other issues. I urge my colleagues to support it. I reserve the balance of my time.”