Corker vows to block arms sales to Gulf states over Qatar

Frederick Owens
June 27, 2017

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Monday he would block US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) until a diplomatic spat with Qatar is resolved. If they take no action, the sale moves forward.

The ultimatum demands that Qatar, among other things, cut its ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base on its soil.

"I could not have been more pleased with the President's recent trip to Saudi Arabia", wrote Corker.

"All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight (the Islamic State) and counter Iran", Corker wrote.

Speaking at the same event, the Iranian foreign minister Zarif said the countries who blamed Iran or Qatar for terrorism were trying to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures in addressing the demands of their own people.

Corker's opposition includes all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - the five countries involved in the Qatar dispute as well as Kuwait, which has been acting as a mediator.

The list includes 13 preconditions to ending Qatar's isolation, including shutting down the country's state-funded Al Jazeera news network and reducing ties with Iran.

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"Qatar has begun its careful review and consideration of a series of requests presented by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE", Tillerson said in a statement issued from Washington. Iran and Turkey have backed Qatar in the crisis, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling the demands an attack on the gas-rich nation's sovereignty and against global law.

But his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, acknowledged on Sunday that some of the demands issued by its neighbours would "be very hard to meet" and called for "dialogue leading to resolution".

Arms sales are subject to preliminary approval by the committee before going to the full Congress for a 30-day review period.

The precision munitions are part of Trump's proposed $110 billion arms package to Riyadh, which the administration said would create U.S.jobs while also improving a key ally's military capability.

Trump seemed to endorse moves to isolate Qatar, just hours after Tillerson said the embargo was hampering U.S. military efforts against ISIS.

The meeting comes days before the deadline on a stern list of demands sent to Qatar by the four Arab states last Thursday. Tillerson also said a "lowering of rhetoric would also help ease the tension". The Trump administration is hoping to close business and investment deals with the Saudis worth more than $350 billion, while the biggest US military base in the region, Al Udeid Air Base, is in Qatar.

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