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US official sacked after 'illegally fast-tracking $8bn in weapons transfers' to Saudi Arabia, UAE Open in fullscreen

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US official sacked after 'illegally fast-tracking $8bn in weapons transfers' to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Trump cites arms sales as the reason to maintain close ties with Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 June, 2019

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A former arms lobbyist in the Trump administration is accused of helping bypass restrictions for a weapons deal to the Gulf countries that saw his former company earn billions.
The US State Department has sacked a senior official who is thought to have helped spearhead a scheme that saw the weapons manufacturer he formerly lobbied for rake in billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Charles Faulkner, who formerly represented weapons manufacturer Raytheon Co. as a lobbyist, used his influential position in the Trump administration to bypass the usual congressional review process and fast-track over $8 billion in weapons deals to the two Gulf kingdoms by declaring an emergency over rising tensions with Iran in May this year.

Read more: How a legal loophole is helping Trump sell arms to Saudi Arabia

His role as deputy assistant secretary at the State Department allowed him to contribute to efforts towards the emergency declaration, which in turn enabled Raytheon to sell $2 billion worth of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to current and former US officials who spoke to the newspaper.

The State Department forced Faulkner to resign in early May, after his role in the scheme raised concern among Democrats in Congress. Lawmakers questioned whether he breached the ethics code by taking part in talks on the declaration which in turn expedited the mammoth weapons deal.

Lobbyists who become political appointees to the State Department, such as Faulkner, are required by the Trump administration to sign an ethics pledge that prohibits them from working on issues “directly or substantially related” to former clients for two years while employed by the government.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to hold a hearing on Wednesday focusing on Faulkner’s role in the State Department’s decision-making process leading to the fast-tracked deal.

US arms sales to the two Gulf nations has been a hotly debated issue in recent months due to the soaring number of civilian casualties in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi air strikes known to use US-made weapons.

The House of Representatives voted in April to end military support for the war in Yemen, however the resolution was vetoed by Trump. The President has often cited lucrative arms sales as a major reason for maintaining close ties with Saudi Arabia.

It is not uncommon for corporate lobbyists to later join the US government as officials or lawmakers, and vice versa, which raises serious ethical questions and has been a contentious issue of late.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Senator Ted Cruz have discussed sponsoring a bi-partisan bill to enforce a lifetime ban on lawmakers ever becoming lobbyists.

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