US senators have introduced a bipartisan resolution that could force the President to make a report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, providing a new strategy to potentially cause the government to reassess its security assistance to its Gulf ally.
Democrat Senator, Chris Murphy, and Republican Senator, Mike Lee, today jointly introduced the resolution under a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act, which enables Congress to vote on requesting information from the President and his administration on a country’s human rights record and actions.
If the resolution is passed, the administration of President Joe Biden will be required to submit a report on the specific country – in this case, Saudi Arabia – within 30 days. If the report is not submitted, all security assistance to that country will reportedly automatically stop.
After that report is completed and received within the time period, the Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that Congress can adopt a joint resolution to terminate, restrict, or continue security assistance to the country.
Many predict that if such a report is written on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the numerous violations, such as the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the detention and execution of political prisoners and its ongoing military action in Yemen could indeed alter the US’s relationship with the Kingdom.
According to Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East sub-committee, the resolution is the first attempt to make use of the act’s clause.
It comes at a time when many US lawmakers are becoming increasingly critical of not only Saudi Arabia’s rights record, but also primarily its perceived opposition to certain American interests on the world stage.
That was particularly the case with Riyadh’s approval of the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production last year – a move which directly defied the Biden administration’s request to increase production and lower market prices. Saudi Arabia was subsequently accused of aiding Russia in its war on Ukraine, resulting in calls in the US to freeze cooperation with the Kingdom and halt most arms sales.
Speaking to reporters today, Murphy said that “When we cozy up to these brutal dictators, who engage in some of the most brazen, brutal repression of democracy and free speech, it gravely harms our efforts to save global democracy.”