US legislators overwhelmingly approved two anti-Saudi bills yesterday targeting individuals in the kingdom responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Riyadh’s human rights record.
In the first of the two bills, the House of Representatives approved the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act by a vote of 405-7. Introduced by Democrat Congressman Tom Malinowski, the act requires the director of National Intelligence to publicly identify the individuals that are involved in killing of Khashoggi nine months ago and impose visa and travel sanctions on them.
A separate bill condemning Riyadh’s human rights record, especially its detention and alleged torture of women activists, requires Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to report on these allegations.
The bill will need the approval of the 100 member Senate – which, unlike the House of Representatives, is controlled by the Republicans – to come into law. The governing party of the US has been less hawkish over US relations with the Saudi’s nevertheless senior members are seeking a major course change in President Trump’s handling of the Khashoggi murder.
Trump has overlooked CIA intelligence and the concerns of international the community in embracing the Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, prompting an ongoing tug of war with Congress. In June Republican and Democratic senators introduced 22 separate joint resolutions seeking to block Trump’s plan to sidestep congressional review and complete more than $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The reaction was provoked by Trump’s defiance of Congress by declaring an emergency to continue arms sale.
Last week Republican Senator John Barrasso blasted Riyadh for being in “complete violation” of US values. His strong attack of the royals in Saudi was made during an interview with CNN, where the senator from Wyoming urged the US to “reevaluate” its relationship with the kingdom.
A call for a review of US relation with Saudi was also made by the UN’s extrajudicial executions investigator, Agnes Callamard, whose report in the murder of Khashoggi concluded that Bin Salman was responsible for the brutal killing of the Washington Post journalist.