US Senate votes to end US support for Yemen war

The US Senate voted on Thursday to approve a resolution calling for an end to US involvement in the Saudi-UAE-led military campaign in Yemen, setting the stage for a potential showdown next year between Congress and President Donald Trump over US military support for Saudi Arabia.

The Senate also approved a resolution saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is responsible for the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

US politicians have grown increasingly outraged as the number of civilians killed in Yemen by Saudi and UAE aircraft using US-made weapons has risen dramatically in the past two years. The Saudi-UAE coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign targeting Houthi rebels. 

The final vote of the Yemen resolution was 56-41, with seven Republicans breaking with their party to vote in support of the measure.

“Warfare involves a lot more than a single battlefield and lines of military personnel firing against each other with guns,” Senator Mike Lee of Utah, the leading Republican sponsor of the resolution, told Al Jazeera in a Capitol Hill press conference.

“There are a lot of aspects of modern warfare that involve cyber activity and there are certainly a lot of aspects of modern warfare that involve reconnaissance, surveillance, target selection and things like midair refueling.” 

Trump administration officials had urged Congress not to undermine the Pentagon’s ability to support Saudi Arabia in the conflict in Yemen with Houthi rebels backed by Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described the conflict in private briefings for lawmakers as part of a larger regional contest with Iran. The Pentagon announced a suspension on November 9 of US aerial refueling of Saudi and UAE combat aircraft. 

Due to tactics used by the Republican leadership in the House, the lower chamber will not take up the Senate measure before adjourning, leaving the matter unresolved until the new Congress convenes in January.

Senators pointed to progress in UN-brokered peace talks and claimed pressure from Congress had pushed Saudis to make concessions. 

Warring factions meeting this week in Rimbo, Sweden agreed to a ceasefire in the key port city of Hodeidah and to exchange of 16,000 prisoners. The Houthis agreed to relinquish control of Yemeni ports, allowing desperately needed international aide to flow. 

“The United States will no longer participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on earth with already 85 thousand children starved to death,” Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who co-sponsored the resolution with Lee, said in remarks to the full Senate. 

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