In recent days multiple bills have been introduced in Congress with the intention of holding Saudi Arabia and UAE accountable for their long history of human rights abuses. The bills come during a strained time in U.S. – Saudi relations, with American politicians growing more willing to criticize the Saudi government despite the two nations’ longstanding alliance. This willingness comes as OPEC – a group consisting of thirteen oil-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia – made the decision to cut oil output in order to drive up oil prices worldwide, and possibly interfere in the U.S. midterm elections.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Amendment 6181 – ‘Accountability re Saudi Repression’
In the Senate, Sen. Merkley has introduced Senate NDAA Amendment 6181, ‘Accountability re Saudi Repression’. The bill would, among other things:
- Require closure of one or more Saudi diplomatic facilities if the President finds that Saudi Arabia is using diplomatic or consular personnel to harass or harm Saudi nationals in the United States.
- Require a report on Saudi Arabia’s transnational repression.
- Prohibit licenses for future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia if basic human rights protections for U.S. and Saudi citizens are not met
- Require the President to certify that Saudi Arabia’s government has not undertaken the following activities:
- Forced repatriation, intimidation, or killing of dissidents in other countries
- The unjust imprisonment in Saudi Arabia of U.S. citizens or the prohibition of these individuals and their family members from exiting Saudi Arabia
- Torture of detainees in government custody
H.R.9181 – temporary 1-year halt to all proposed weapons and munitions sales to Saudi Arabia (Senate bill text here)
- A collaboration between Rep. Khanna and Sen. Blumenthal, this bill would institute a one year ban on new arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE.
HR 9168 – Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Saudi Arabia and UAE
Introduced by Reps. Malinowski, Casten and Wild, HR 9168 would “mandate the removal of U.S. troops and missile defense systems from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The bill would also relocate the equipment and defense systems to other areas in the Middle East for the purpose of protecting U.S. troops elsewhere.”
Yemen War Powers Act (H.J.Res.87 in House, S.J.Res.56 in Senate)
Finally, and as urgent now as when it was first introduced, is the Yemen War Powers Act. Originally introduced in the Senate in 2018 by Senators Sanders, Murphy, and Lee, and in the House by Rep. Khanna in 2019, there is renewed hope that it can be brought to a vote and passed in the waning months of 2022.
In February 2021, President Biden announced an end to U.S. participation in a Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. Yet the United States continues to provide spare parts, maintenance, and logistical support for Saudi warplanes. The administration also never clearly defined the difference between “offensive” and “defensive” support, and it has since approved over a billion dollars in arms sales, including new attack helicopters and air-to-air missiles.
Freedom Forward urges the House and Senate to bring these bills to a vote, pass them, and finally punish Saudi Arabia and UAE for their crimes against basic human rights.