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Congress and the Trump Administration Spar Over U.S. Arms Sales to the Saudi-Led Coalition in Yemen
American Journal of International Law  (IF3.091),  Pub Date : 2021-01-15, DOI: 10.1017/ajil.2020.102

Longstanding tensions between Congress and the executive over U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have spurred conflict between the branches over arms sales. In May 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo declared an emergency under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to bypass congressional “freezes” on arms sales and complete $8.1 billion in sales to members of the Saudi-led coalition. In response, Congress requested that the State Department inspector general (IG) investigate the matter. In a report released in August 2020, the IG determined that the emergency declaration comported with the AECA's procedural requirements but that the State Department's risk assessments and civilian casualty mitigation measures did not fully address legal concerns about the sales. The Trump administration has continued to move forward with arms sales, including by unilaterally reinterpreting a nonbinding multilateral export control regime to eliminate prohibitions on the export of certain unmanned aerial systems (UAS). A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill to prevent such sales to all countries except select U.S. allies. In September, a UN report criticized U.S. and other countries’ arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition and recommended referral of the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court (ICC).