The Senate rejected a resolution Tuesday seeking to end U.S. involvement in Yemen’s spiraling civil war, which has killed thousands of civilians and thrown the country into the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” according to the United Nations.
In a closer-than-expected result, lawmakers voted 55-44 against curbing U.S. military activity in Yemen, narrowly defeating the bipartisan legislation put forward by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. But human rights advocates were heartened by what they believe is a growing opposition to America’s unconditional support for Saudi Arabia’s controversial campaign in Yemen.
“Today should have been the day that the Senate moved to end U.S. involvement in this catastrophe.” said Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s policy lead for Yemen. “But it is clear from today’s debate that the tide is turning,”
Paul was likely referring to the timing of the vote, which, despite urgent requests from the White House and the Pentagon, took place just as Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited with President Donald Trump at the White House. Trump praised the young leader as a “very great friend” to America; hours later the Senate debated the bill.
Congressional leaders sought to use the Crown Prince’s much-touted visit to press the White House and its powerful Middle East ally to end the brutal war in Yemen, along with the U.S. military’s involvement in it. They did so while facing opposition from the executive branch and the military. Ahead of the visit, Secretary of Defense James Mattis penned a personal letter to U.S. senators, urging them to halt the vote, and warning that such an effort risked straining relations and compromising American interests in the region.
But there’s a reason the senators pressed forward with the vote. Bin Salman may be touted as Saudi Arabia’s young modernizing reformer, but he is also widely considered the architect of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, which has had disastrous results for the country and its civilians.
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