Aug. 12 (UPI) — The inspector general of the State Department said Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s emergency declaration to fast-track an $8.1 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan complied with the law.
However, the inspector general’s report also found that the department failed to implement measures to reduce civilian deaths those weapons may cause.
The report was released more than a year after Congress asked the inspector general to investigate the State Department’s arms sale after Pompeo in May 2019 declared an emergency under the Arms Export Control Act amid rising tensions in the Gulf with Iran.
The declaration sidestepped congressional review for the arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan after Congress had placed holds on the majority of those transfers, which had attracted criticism over fears of the civilian death toll in Yemen.
“OIG determined that the Secretary’s emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the AECA,” the report said. “However, OIG also found that the department did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties and legal concerns associated with the transfer of [precision-guided munitions] included in the May 2019 certification.”
The report continued that it did not evaluate whether the threat of Iran cited in the secretary’s emergency declaration constituted an emergency and that the majority of the arms had not been transferred.
It also said the State Department approved a total of 4,221 transfers worth $11.2 billion that did not require congressional approval since January 2017.
Pompeo cheered the report on Twitter as vindication over an issue that has followed him for months.
“The IG has fully vindicated the dedicated professionals of the State Department,” he said, adding “I’m sorry that Rep. Eliot Engel and Senator Bob Menedez misuse their committees for political games.”
Both Engel and Menedez have leveled criticism at the Trump administration over the arms sale.
Following the release of the report Tuesday, Engel described the report as “deeply damning” for both Pompeo and the Trump administration as it details how the emergency declaration was a “sham” without offering a direct opinion on it.
“What sort of emergency makes itself known a few months in advance and can be resolved with weapons delivered years later?” Engel said in a statement. “This report tells us everything we suspected: the emergency was a sham. It was cooked up to get around congressional review of a bad policy choice.”