Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) delivered remarks Thursday defending the Gulf arms sales in response to growing tensions in the Middle East.
Cotton’s speech came hours after an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, for which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly blamed Iran. This comes weeks after an unidentified attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
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Additionally, 26 civilians were injured Wednesday after the Iran-backed Houthis launched a missile attack on Saudi airport. Cotton made clear his certainty that Yemen did not create this weapon on their own.
"Yemen isn’t known for its defense-industrial base," he said. "That missile came from Iran, as surely as if it was launched from Iranian soil itself."
Cotton pleaded with his colleagues to support arms sales to U.S. allies in response to these recent attacks, noting that sold weapons would also protect deployed Americans in the area.
"Let’s not be naïve about what’s happening in the Middle East," he said. "It’s essential we support our Gulf partners during this dangerous time so they can defend themselves from Iranian aggression and its proxies."
Critics of the deal argue it is unethical for the U.S. to be supporting Saudi Arabia due to their involvement in the Yemen civil war, mistreatment of women and LGBT people, and killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"I understand that a few of my colleagues have qualms about some of the countries with whom America must work as a matter of necessity to protect our security and our interests," Cotton said. "But that’s no excuse for rash actions that would weaken American influence, threaten Americans overseas, and embolden our adversaries in Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow."
Cotton closed his remarks by arguing that U.S. allies need to counter Russian and Chinese attempts to grow their influence in Qatar and Bahrain.
"Make no mistake," he said. "[T]he ayatollahs, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping are watching these votes. For those of you who are undecided, I suggest you consider how those men would want you to vote."