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U.S. Senate vote rebukes Trump’s pro-Saudi policies

Lawmakers seek an end to administration’s support for the Saudi war in Yemen

In a blow to the Trump administration, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly (63-37) to move forward a bipartisan resolution ending U.S. support to the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.

The resolution, which essentially directs President Donald Trump to remove U.S. troops from Yemen, will be discussed on the full Senate floor next week before being put to vote.

The move came after a closed-door Senate hearing on the U.S. role in Yemen, which included briefings by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the alleged role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We have a problem here. We understand that Saudi Arabia is an ally, of sorts, and a semi-important country. We also have a Crown Prince that’s out of control,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Republican) said.

While it has sanctioned 17 Saudi agents it believes were involved in Khashoggi’s murder, the Trump administration has been at odds with the CIA’s reported finding that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing. The President and other administration officials have said the Agency’s assessment was inconclusive.

Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, according to Turkish investigators. The murder has sparked global outrage.

Arms sales

Mr. Trump has also repeatedly indicated that Saudi Arabia’s arms purchases from the U.S. and it being an ally in West Asia are factors that weigh heavily on his decision not to censure the Crown Prince or isolate Saudi Arabia, a sentiment echoed by Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis.

“So it is the view of the administration, Secretary Mattis, and myself that passing a resolution at this point undermines that [possibility of ceasefire in Yemen],” Mr. Pompeo told the press after briefing the Senate.

Fragile deal

“It would encourage the Houthis [Shia rebels in Yemen], it would encourage the Iranians; it would undermine the fragile agreement for everyone to go to Sweden [where the UN is attempting to organise ceasefire talks] and have this discussion,” he added. Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mattis both told reporters that there was no direct link between Khashoggi’s murder and Crown Prince Mohammed.

“We have no smoking gun the Crown Prince was involved, not the intelligence community or anyone else. There is no smoking gun,” Mr. Mattis said to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

CIA director absent

Senators are also upset that the administration has resisted sending CIA Director Gina Haspel to Capitol Hill to discuss Khashoggi’s murder.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina and a strong Trump backer said any legislation the administration wanted would not move forward until Ms. Haspel was allowed to answer questions from the Senate.

“I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA,” he said .

The CIA, however, denied that Ms. Haspel had been told not to attend the briefing and said, via a statement, that it had already briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee and members of Congress.

The President’s advisers would advise him to veto the Bill in its current form, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Yemen Bill was proposed by Senators Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont), Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) and Chris Murphy (Democrat, Connecticut).

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