US Senate votes to pull support for Saudi war in Yemen

Move seen as punishment for Khashoggi killing and rebuke of Bin Salman and Trump

US president Donald Trump walks past Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The US Senate voted to withdraw American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen as punishment for the killing of dissident columnist Jamal Khashoggi – a rebuke of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Donald Trump.

The resolution, adopted 56-41 on Thursday, is symbolic because the House doesn’t plan to take it up before the end of this year. A bipartisan group of senators say they will try again in 2019 to enact stronger legislation to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia and impose sanctions against those involved in Khashoggi’s killing. The Senate also adopted by voice vote a separate non-binding resolution, introduced by outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, declaring that the Senate believes Prince Mohammed is responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.

The resolution on Yemen would seek to end US assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war against Houthi rebels in that country. The United Nations has said as many as 14 million people could be at risk of starvation in Yemen in coming months as famine spreads.

Important alliance

Trump has sought to emphasise the importance of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia while insisting it’s uncertain whether Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing. Top senators received a classified briefing last week from CIA director Gina Haspel and said afterwards they were certain the crown prince directed the killing and dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist.

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The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to block members from forcing a vote on the Yemen resolution this month. Without action in both chambers by year’s end, it will be up to lawmakers to restart the entire debate when their new session starts in January.

“I hope and expect that the House of Representatives will take this resolution up early in 2019” under the new Democratic majority, said Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat.

Senate Republicans and Democrats were unable to agree on a stronger proposal to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia and impose sanctions on those involved in Khashoggi’s killing. – Bloomberg