Senate rebukes Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi, Yemen war
Published 8:28 am Friday, December 14, 2018
WASHINGTON — Senators voted Thursday to recommend that the U.S. end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and put the blame for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a direct challenge to both the longtime Middle East ally and President Donald Trump’s handling of the relationship.
The succession of bipartisan votes came two months after the Saudi journalist’s slaying at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and after Trump persistently equivocated over who was responsible. U.S. intelligence officials concluded that bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has repeatedly praised the kingdom.
Senators made clear where they put the blame. The resolution, passed by unanimous agreement, says the Senate believes the crown prince is “responsible for the murder” and calls for the Saudi Arabian government to “ensure appropriate accountability.”
Email newsletter signup
Senators voted 56-41 to recommend that the U.S. stop supporting the war in Yemen, a direct affront to the administration’s war powers abilities.
The floor action brought an unusual show of bipartisan resolve in the Senate over U.S foreign policy, even amid an uncertain outcome as the measures move to the House.
Frustration with the crown prince and the White House prompted several Republicans to support the Yemen resolution as a way to rebuke the longtime ally. Seven Republicans and all Democrats voted for it. Some already had concerns about the war, which human rights groups say is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians, many of them children, to deadly disease and indiscriminate bombing.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who co-sponsored the Yemen resolution with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, called the vote a “historic moment.”
Lee said Khashoggi’s death focused attention “on the fact that we have been led into this civil war in Yemen half a world away” and “we’ve done so following the lead” of Saudi Arabia.
“What the Khashoggi event did was to demonstrate, hey, maybe this isn’t a regime that we should just be following that eagerly into battle,” Lee said.
The resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s slaying was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both Republicans opposed the Yemen resolution and voted against it.
McConnell said senators have grave concerns about Khashoggi’s killing, but “we also want to preserve a 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and we want to ensure it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region.”
But McConnell urged colleagues to back the resolution on Khashoggi’s death. Its passage, he said, provided “a clear and unambiguous message about how we feel about what happened to this journalist.”
The resolution also calls the war in Yemen a “humanitarian crisis” and demands that all parties seek an immediate cease-fire.
It appears unlikely that the House would be willing to consider the Yemen resolution. House leaders added a provision to an unrelated House rule that would make it more difficult for lawmakers there to call it up.