The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on legislation as early as Wednesday that would end U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabia-backed war in Yemen, as the Trump Administration continues to publicly express support for the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
Politico reports that the bill introduced by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) “has gained support since the president dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman likely ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
The war in Yemen, and the resulting humanitarian crisis as well as high civilian casualties as the conflict drags on into its third year, is the issue on which lawmakers are finding common ground to target the U.S.-Saudi relationship in the wake of the Khashoggi murder. The Saudis have already moved to end mid-air refueling for the Saudi-led coalition, but the new measure would cut off all support for the war in Yemen.
Meanwhile, both President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly expressed support for Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Pompeo affirmed the U.S.-Saudi relationship is “vital,” and although the Trump Administration does not condone the murder of Khashoggi, “degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies,” adding that Saudi Arabia “a powerful force for stability” in the region.
Secretary Pompeo added that, “Saudi Arabia is working to secure Iraq’s fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to the West’s interests, not Tehran’s. Riyadh is helping manage the flood of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war by working with host countries, cooperating closely with Egypt, and establishing stronger ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the U.S.-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Saudi oil production and economic stability are keys to regional prosperity and global energy security.”
President Trump, in an interview with the Washington Post, reiterated his earlier stance that there was no smoking gun against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite what the CIA has concluded.
“It’s a rough part of the world. It’s a dangerous, rough part of the world,” Trump told the Post yesterday. “But [Saudi Arabia] has been a great ally. Without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran.”