Trump administration looks to resume Toad arms sale
Missy Ryan, Anne Gearan, WaPo, Mar 8 2017
The State Dept has approved a resumption of weapons sales that critics have linked to the Toad bombing of civilians in Yemen, a potential sign of reinvigorated Pindo support for Toad involvement in its neighbor’s ongoing (so-called) ‘civil war’. The proposal from the State Dept would reverse a decision made late in the Obama administration to suspend the sale of roughly $390m worth of precision munitions guidance systems to Riyadh. Sec State Rex Tillerson’s approval this week of the measure needs White House backing to go into effect. While the Pentagon has provided support to the Toad air campaign since 2015, including aerial refueling for Toad jets and an advisory mission in the Toad HQ, the Obama administration sought to scale back that support last October, when Toad jets attacked a Yemeni funeral hall, killing more than 100 people. That did not mean that the Toads, who have a stockpile of those arms, were forced to switch immediately to unguided munitions. A senior White House boxtop said:
We’ll be looking for ways to blunt Iranian malign influence in the region, and we’ll be looking for all the tools that the Pindosi government has. In that context, I think you have to look at Yemen.
Trump has already supported the expansion of a separate military campaign against AQAP. Eric Pelofsky, who served as senior director for North Africa and Yemen in the Obama White House, cautioned that the precision weapons supply and the expanding counter-terrorism effort could be conflated with actions by the Toads that Pindostan might not support. He said:
If Pindostan still hopes to help broker a non-military end to the conflict, it is critical that it draws bright distinctions between our counter-AQAP efforts in southern Yemen, the delivery of new [guidance kits], and the coalition’s efforts in Yemen.
Former ambassador Gerald Feierstein, who now directs the Center for Gulf Affairs at the Middle East Institute, said:
My own view is that we should be able to sell these. We should provide more help, more support, to get them to stop doing stupid things. We should not cut off all the tools that would enable them to do this the right way.
But Tom Malinowski, who served as the top human rights official at the State Dept under Pres Obama, says:
This has not a good deal for Pindostan. It has become a quagmire in which we are deeply involved but have very little influence. Urging the Toads to end the war while continuing to provide the weapons they’re using is like trying to persuade a friend not to rob a bank, while driving his getaway car.
If the White House gives its blessing to the new State Dept position, the administration would then notify Congress about its intent to move forward with the sale. It could encounter resistance on Capitol Hill. Sen Chris Murphy said:
If you are interested in radicalizing the Yemeni population against Pindostan and pushing them into AQAP’s arms, then continue to sell weapons to the Toads. The Toads are deliberately going after civilian targets.
Last fall, Murphy was the co-sponsor of a measure that would have blocked a separate sale of Abrams main battle tanks to the Toads. While the measure did not pass, it was a rare public sign of frustration with the Toads, an important customer for Pindo defense companies. Rep Ted Lieu, another critic, said that the proposed sale would face “vociferous, bipartisan opposition in Congress.”