Date
17 January 2019
A Yemeni girl walks near her house destroyed in an air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Faj Attan village in Sanaa on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
A Yemeni girl walks near her house destroyed in an air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Faj Attan village in Sanaa on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

US Senate hands Trump double rebuke on Saudi Arabia

The US Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia, voting to end US military support for the war in Yemen and blaming the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reports.

The votes were largely symbolic because to become law the resolutions would have to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis.

In a historic move, Senators on Thursday voted 56-41 to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw US forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the president’s ability to commit US forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval. 

Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Senate Democrats to back the measure. 

In Sweden, Yemen’s warring parties agreed to cease fighting for the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah and withdraw their troops, the first significant breakthrough for UN-led peace efforts in five years of conflict. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a framework for political negotiations would be discussed at the next round of talks at the end of January between the Iranian-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. 

Immediately after the Yemen vote in Washington, the US Senate backed a resolution blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s murder and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold accountable anyone responsible for his death

Khashoggi, a US resident who was a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The Senate vote, which was unanimous, puts pressure on House leaders to allow a vote on the Khashoggi resolution this month, before Congress adjourns for the year. 

“Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution.

Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and the prince, despite a CIA assessment it was likely he ordered Khashoggi’s killing. He promised to veto the war powers resolution.  

Opponents of the resolution are reluctant to take any action to disrupt the strategic US relationship with Saudi Arabia, seen as an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran, arch-enemy of close US ally Israel. 

Administration officials also see Saudi support as a linchpin for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan yet to be unveiled by the Trump administration. And they have argued that ending US support could complicate Yemen peace talks. 

Asked to comment on the Khashoggi resolution, a White House spokesperson noted sanctions imposed on 17 Saudis over the killing and said, “Our shared strategic interests with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remain, and we continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing.” 

But backers of the resolutions, including some Republicans, promised to press ahead. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators promised to push in the new Congress legislation for humanitarian sanctions and a ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

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CG

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