Yemen war: US Senate advances measure to end support for Saudi forces


29th November, 2018 08:24:26 printer

Yemen war: US Senate advances measure to end support for Saudi forces


The US Senate has advanced a measure to withdraw American support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.


In a blow to President Donald Trump, Senators voted 63-37 to take forward a motion on ending US support.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had urged Senators not to back the motion, saying it would worsen the situation in Yemen.


The vote comes in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident.


Criticism of Saudi Arabia has grown since the prominent writer was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey on 2 October.


The US Senators, who met in a closed session on relations with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, also strongly criticised the non-appearance of the director of the CIA at their hearing.


The Senate's vote is seen as a rebuke to President Trump who has described Saudi Arabia as a vital ally and resisted calls for sanctions against the kingdom's leadership.


Last week Mr Trump dismissed a reported CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was to blame for Khashoggi's death.


The vote in the Senate means further debate on US support for Saudi Arabia is expected next week.


Correspondents say that even if the Senate ultimately passes the bipartisan resolution it has little chance of being approved by the House of Representatives.


Several emerged from Wednesday's briefing expressing anger that their request to hear directly from Ms Haspel - who has heard audio of the murder provided by Turkey - had been turned down.


The secretary of state restated the White House's view that "there is no direct reporting connecting the Saudi crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi".


The Saudis have blamed rogue intelligence officers for the killing.


Mr Pompeo also defended the administration's continued support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen, saying withdrawing it would undermine efforts to reach a ceasefire.


A vote, he added, would "encourage the Houthis" and their Iranian allies.


The conflict between Saudi-led military coalition and Houthi rebels has killed thousands of people and pushed millions more Yemenis to the brink of starvation.


The US provides intelligence support to the coalition and sells weapons used by the Saudis in Yemen.


What is the situation in Yemen?


The conflict began in 2014 when the Houthi Shia rebels seized control of the north of the country and went on to take the capital Sanaa, forcing the president to flee.


It escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states - backed by the US, UK and France - began air strikes against the Houthis, with the aim of restoring the government.