Rand Paul breaks with Trump on Saudi Arabia

Republican Senator Rand Paul blamed scheduling conflicts for his absence at a Washington D.C. conference hosted by right-wing think tank Frontiers of Freedom last week, instead sending a 10-minute pre-recorded speech to the event. In his remarks to the conference, which focused on America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, Rand criticized the Trump administration’s relations with Saudi Arabia in light of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and continued U.S. support for the war in Yemen.

“If our foreign policy is to change and succeed we must look at old alliances and their value,” the Senator from Kentucky said in the video, played to around 100 attendees. The conference, held at the Capitol Hilton in D.C. on Friday, brought together experts to discuss risks to U.S. interests in its alliances with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.

Sen. Paul made no mention of cutting aid to Israel on Friday, despite comments earlier last week calling for reduced U.S. aid to the Jewish state. He instead criticized the Trump administration for pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, spoke of his desire to see U.S. troops leave Syria and Afghanistan and called for harsher punishment of Saudi Arabia.

“We also can’t base our foreign policy on oil and defense contracts… I think we should re-examine our ties to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We need to be stronger, we need to stand up to the Saudis and say, no more weapons until you start behaving. I’m breaking with the administration on their handling of this.”

The conference attendees, sitting at long tables facing a projected image of Paul on a screen, ate lunch quietly during the senator’s short speech and applauded at the conclusion of the video.

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