• World
  • Saudi Arabia

The Trump Administration May Bypass Congress to Export Weapons to Gulf States

3 minute read

The White House may bypass Congress to export billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are now on hold.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials are pushing for the enacting of an emergency provision which would give President Trump the power to stop Congress from halting sales of the arms, according to the New York Times. The weapons are worth about $7 billion and include combat aircraft and precision-guided munitions.

Congress normally reviews prospective U.S. weapons sales, but the Trump administration may not afford Congress that customary assessment.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy Tweeted about the issue Wednesday.

The loophole Murphy is referring to is one that allows the president to circumvent the congressional review of arms sales if it is deemed that “an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States,” according to the Times.

Pompeo may invoke the emergency based on what the U.S. government says is increased threat from Iran, according to the Times.

Tensions have risen in the Middle East in recent weeks. Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for an attack on an oil pipeline and the U.S. warned sailors in the Gulf of an increased threat form Iran or its allies after ships were sabotaged off the coast of the U.A.E. The U.S. cited this threat as justification for the deployment of an aircraft carrier and a bomber fleet to the Middle East. Allied officials have contradicted the White House and said that there is not an increased threat. The U.S. evacuated some staff from the U.S. embassy in Iraq in mid-May.

Read More: ‘Saudi Arabia Wants to Stop My Work.’ Activists Are Facing New Threats For Continuing Jamal Khashoggi’s Efforts

Government officials worried about the precedent it would set if the Trump administration bypasses Congress.

“We have a gold standard for that sort of arrangement, and to violate it for Saudi Arabia is going to open the door for it to happen in multiple other places,” Senator Marco Rubio said, according to the Times.

State Department officials declined to comment. “We do not comment to confirm or deny potential arms sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman said, according to the Times.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Amy Gunia at amy.gunia@time.com