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23 May 19. Trump administration may use Iran threat to sell bombs to Saudis without Congress’ approval – senator. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday.
“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” the Democratic senator warned on Twitter.
Congressional aides said there are provisions of the Arms Control Act, which sets rules for international arms transactions, that would allow a president to approve a sale without congressional review in case of a national emergency.
In this case, they said the Republican president would cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important U.S. partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.
Trump previously declared an influx of immigrants a national emergency to bypass Congress and get $6bn to build his wall along the Mexican border. Both Democrats and his fellow Republicans voted to block the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.
It was not immediately clear what equipment would be sold to Saudi Arabia or when any sale might go ahead.
However, any such plan would run into resistance in Congress, from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats like Murphy, even in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority.
A handful of Republicans recently voted with Democrats in a failed effort to override Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s devastating civil war.
Many lawmakers from both parties have also expressed anger over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, told CNN he would oppose the administration if it decided to go around Congress, citing Khashoggi’s killing.
“We are not going to have business as usual until that issue is dealt with,” Graham said.
The State Department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, who review major international weapons deals, have been approving sales of defensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia. (Source: Reuters)
17 May 19. Where do special forces fit in the National Defense Strategy? The most valuable role for U.S. special operations forces within the National Defense Strategy is to build relationships with countries in hot spots around the globe to keep Russia and China at bay. But that effort can’t be at the expense of its counterterrorism mission, which remains the No. 1 priority of special forces, according to leadership within U.S. Special Operations Command. SOCOM plans to issue a report to Congress on a comprehensive review of its roles and missions this month, according to Mark Mitchell, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, who was speaking during a recent hearing with the House Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.
One of the main priorities for SOCOM is to carry out counterterror missions, but the National Defense Strategy focuses on great power competition against near-peer adversaries Russia and China, so House lawmakers wanted to know how special forces fit in a strategy that focuses less on counterterrorism and more on powerful adversaries.
“We’ve been the tip of the spear on the [counterterror] fight,” SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke said during the hearing.
“However, moving forward, particularly in great power competition, our special operations forces are not necessarily going to be in that fight because the whole idea of the strategy is to avoid a kinetic” confrontation, he added.
Clarke said he’s examining SOCOM relationships with U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Transportation Command as well as the global combatant commanders to see “how we can best integrate our forces and provide support to those in other domains.”
“I think the special operations community is uniquely suited to build networks of partners and allies around the globe to put us in a position, first of all, to compete for that influence and legitimacy in peacetime,” Clarke added.
Special forces also have an important role to play within the military information support operations center in Tampa, Florida, which is aligned with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which “allows us to compete in the space ahead of time and make sure that we’re countering some of the vitriol that’s coming out of Russia at this time and the falsehoods,” Clarke said.
According to Clarke and Mitchell, it’s unlikely the reach of special forces around the globe will wane.
“A [counterterror] deployment to Africa is also a part of that great power competition against the Russians and Chinese,” Clarke noted as an example. “We are trying to look at our employment of the SOF force from a holistic view to ensure that we’re maximizing the return on that investment to our counterterrorism mission and our great power competition.”
The relationships that U.S. special forces develop with other countries is also unique, Clarke noted. “A small team, a small element of Special Operations forces, can bring a significant impact working with foreign forces.”
“Remember,” Mitchell added, “Chinese and Russian threats are global, and that’s part of the reason why we’re in 80 countries.”
For example, Mitchell added, SOCOM received recent congressional approval to move forward with an important counterterror effort in the Philippines, but that is also a critical component of building influence within the country and “keeping Chinese at arm’s length.”
While the NDS is focused on great power competition, the strategy still recognizes the need to combat violent extremist organizations, which “is not going away, and we’ve got to balance that,” Mitchell said.
So some new concepts for employment of special forces will likely emerge, according to Mitchell. “We’re working with the services to ensure that we are integrated with their development efforts,” he added.
But there are a few tasks where, if given the chance, SOCOM would take off its plate, particularly to improve its deployment ratio with double the time spent at home compared to overseas. Clarke said special forces in Africa could be better optimized. “That’s not necessarily ‘take away the mission,’ but I see reduction internal to some of these missions,” he said.
Additionally, the mission to counter weapons of mass destruction is also an increasing burden on the force, Clarke said: “I think it’s a right-sizing in the mission internal to make sure we have the right force allocation against it.”
And SOCOM is looking at how the Army’s security force assistance brigades might be better suited for certain security force assistance-type missions. (Source: Defense News)
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