How One Senator is Trying to Change America’s Alliance with Saudi Arabia

Chris Murphy. Credit: CFR

Chris Murphy. Credit: CFR

Senator Chris Murphy wants to change a bedrock relationship in US foreign policy.

In April this year he introduced legislation to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia over that country’s conduct in the war in Yemen. The Saudi-led air campaign is both causing inordinate civilian casualties in Yemen and not doing much to counter the active ISIS or Al Qaeda branches in the country. Senator Murphy discusses how this legislation hopes to reign in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign, which in the view of Senator Murphy is becoming increasingly inimical to American interests.

Our discussion of Yemen leads to an extended conversation about the US-Saudi alliance, the terms of which Murphy is very transparently trying to change from his perch in the Senate.

We recorded this conversation before the US Senate voted, unanimously, on May 17th, to enable the family members of 9-11 victims to possibly sue the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for any potential liability they may hold–a move which was opposed by the White House.  But I do think this conversation helps set the context for that vote.

Senator Murphy is a Connecticut Democrat on the progressive end of the spectrum, who has launched a website, chanceforpeace.org in which he’s attempting to fundamentally shift the terms of the national security conversation in DC. The Saudi arms sales legislation seems to be one manifestation of his foreign policy vision.

Foreign policy watchers will be interested in hearing Senator Murphy’s critique of US middle east policy. And for international relations students out there, this conversation offers a fascinating insight into how individual legislators can influence US foreign policy.

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