SecDef: US Arms Saudis to Prevent Russia, China From Arming Them

State Dept officials decline to discuss efforts to circumvent Congress on sales

Facing growing opposition from Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Trump Administration’s officials are lining up to dismiss concerns about whether Saudi war crimes and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi might warrant ending those sales.

The go-to administration argument was expressed by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Wednesday, when he insisted the US must sell the Saudis all the arms they want or risk losing those sales to Russia and China.

State Department officials were making the same argument, and while it’s plainly not a moral argument, it doesn’t appear to be factually correct either. Indeed China has long attempted to bolster its own relationship with Saudi Arabia, but has conceded that even without the US there isn’t a practical way for China or Russia to supplant those huge arms deals.

That argument may be all the administration has, however, as officials were very dismissive of Congressional questioning, declining to offer any details of their attempt to circumvent Congress by declaring a “state of emergency.”

Many in Congress are particularly angry about this declaration, since some of the arms in question aren’t to be delivered to the Saudis for more than a year, which hardly justifies the administration trying to skirt a 30-day oversight period.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of