WASHINGTON — Congress is still divided on the decision to continue selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, and it turns out the American public feels a similar way.

According to a new public opinion poll, 70 percent of Americans oppose arms sales to other nations and see the transactions as a threat to national security. However, when it comes to the U.S.-Saudi relationship, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 50 percent of Americans feel the alliance weakens U.S. national security, while 45 percent say it does more to strengthen national security.

“Saudi Arabia has long been viewed as a valuable security partner for US grand strategy in the Middle East. As such, it has received significant military aid and equipment from the United States,” the think tank said in its findings.

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As for opposition to U.S. arms sales in general, the poll found that this view crosses traditional partisan lines: 75 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Independents and 62 percent of Republicans expressed a lack of safety associated with arms sales. “Overall, 20 percent say arms sales make no difference to US safety, while just 9 percent say they make the US safer,” the think tank reported.

The poll also found that Republicans tend to favor the U.S.-Saudi relationship, while Democrats and Independents tend to oppose it. The bilateral relationship is under criticism following Saudia Arabia’s involvement in the Yemen civil war, which has contributed to a humanitarian crisis there, and the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has been tied to the Saudi royal family.

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned a State Department official Wednesday over a controversial arms deal that was pushed through by the Trump administration against congressional objection.

The U.S. is the No. 1 global arms trader, according to a March 2019 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Kelsey Reichmann is a general assignment editorial fellow supporting Defense News, Fifth Domain, C4ISRNET and Federal Times. She attended California State University.

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