Republican Senator Blocks US Arms Sales Pending Qatar Resolution

Toronto – In a letter to, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Republican US Senator, Bob Corker, vowed Monday night to withhold his consent regarding any large-scale US arms sales to GCC countries until the crisis in the Gulf has been resolved or at least until “a better understanding” of how the crisis can be resolved is brought forward.Any sale of arms is mandated to go through a preliminary approval process before heading to full Congress for a 30-day review period. In his position as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Corker has found himself uniquely positioned to apply pressure for a resolution.In a letter to US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with whom he shares a close relationship, Corker stated that “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 ISIS (ISIL) and counter Iran.” “For these reasons,” his letter continued, “before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC.”An aide of Corker’s explained on Monday that the hold applies to future major arms sales subject to congressional review. As such, it could also affect any deal “acknowledged or announced publicly by the administration but not formally notified to Congress.”The move threatens to delay the much-celebrated $110 million arms deal signed during Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia. In his letter to Tillerson, Corker declared he “could not have been more pleased” with the Presidential visit to the region at the time. He was quick to point out, however, that the GCC countries were guilty of not following through on crucial promises made at the summit to “ease regional conflicts” and “strengthen partnership frameworks.”Last Thursday, amid widespread frustration, Qatar was issued the list of demands necessary to end the crisis. Included in the demands were the complete shutdown of state-funded network, Al Jazeera, a significant scaling back of Qatar’s relationship with Iran and the closure of a Turkish military base in the country.The list of demands came weeks after three Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, announced on June 4 their decision to sever all diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging state-sponsored financial support for terrorist organizations and a relationship with Iran which they found too close for their comfort.On Sunday, Tillerson urged the two sides to talk while acknowledging some of the demands will be “very difficult” for Qatar.As part of a statement released by Tillerson on Sunday, he acknowledged the road ahead will be difficult for Qatar, but urged all parties involved to engage in determined dialogue. “While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution,” Tillerson said. “A productive next step would be for each of the countries to sit together and continue this conversation.”Senator Corker remained resolute in his stance. “We need to remain united in the face of rising threats from Iran and The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” he wrote to Tillerson. “Unfortunately, the GCC did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict.”