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U.S. Senate votes to end U.S. aid for Saudi war in Yemen

By Sheetal Sukhija, Mexico City News.Net
14 Dec 2018, 22:33 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - The U.S. Senate handed the country's President Donald Trump a double defeat, after voting to not only withdraw the military aid for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, but also to blame the Kingdom's crown prince for the murder of veteran journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. 

The vote for the Senate, was the first time in history that any chamber of the U.S. Congress had backed a measure to withdraw U.S. forces from a military conflict under the 1973 War Powers Act. 

The non-binding War Powers Act of 1973 limits the President's ability to commit U.S. forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

However, the vote, which received large support from Senate Democrats and even from seven key Republicans, is largely symbolic and is unlikely to become law. 

The historic vote was passed by 56-41 on Thursday but to become a law, the resolutions would have to pass the House of Representatives.

As per the resolution, the U.S. Senate has called upon Trump to remove all American forces engaging in hostilities in Yemen, except for those combating Islamist extremists.

Last month, the U.S. chose to cease refuelling Saudi war planes but if Thursday's resolution is passed into law, it would prohibit that practice from resuming.

Trump has vowed to veto the measure and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis. 

In a statement following the vote, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who co-sponsored the measure with Republican Mike Lee of Utah said, "Today we tell the despotic government of Saudi Arabia that we will not be part of their military adventures."

Sanders said the outcome was a signal to "the world that the United States of America will not continue to be part of the worst humanitarian disaster on the face of the earth."

He added, "What's next is to do everything possible to demand that the House of Representatives do what the members of the House want done, an opportunity to vote on this. I think we're going to win in the Senate and I think we are going to do what the American people want, that is to end our participation in this horrific and destructive war."

So far, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's civil war has led to the death of tens of thousands of people and has triggered the world's most dire human crisis.

The United Nations has said that the ongoing war has brought the country on the brink of a famine.

Khashoggi's murder

Following the vote on the Yemen war, the Senate backed a resolution blaming the young Saudi Crown Prince and de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October this year. 

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold anyone responsible for his death, accountable.

On Thursday, the Senate vote added pressure on House leaders to allow a vote on the Khashoggi resolution before Congress adjourns for the year.

Commenting on the vote over the murder of Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident and a columnist for the Washington Post, Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution said in a statement, "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."

However, despite the assessment by the CIA, which claimed that it was likely that the Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi's killing, Trump has defied the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

The U.S. President has claimed that he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and its prince.

Trump has clarified that he would veto the war powers resolution.

Corker argued, "If he was before a jury, the crown prince, he would be convicted in my opinion in 30 minutes."

U.S. lawmakers opposing the resolution have expressed reluctance to take any action to disrupt the strategic U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Trump and other lawmakers have insisted over the last month that U.S. ties with the Kingdom are an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran.

Further, some key Republicans believe that Saudi support is key for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that the Trump administration has not unveiled so far. 

Further, the White House has also emphasized U.S. economic ties to the kingdom.

Commenting on the Khashoggi resolution, a White House spokesperson said that sanctions have already been imposed on 17 Saudis over the killing.

The spokesperson 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."

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