The Senate on Wednesday advanced a resolution seeking to end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, delivering a sharp rebuke of the Saudi crown prince and President Trump’s decision to defend him amid the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
The 63-to-37 vote means the resolution can be considered by the full Senate, but it does not officially launch debate on the matter. That will happen next week, provided the Senate passes a second procedural vote — which seems likely, senators said, unless the Trump administration takes definitive steps to hold Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for Khashoggi’s murder.
Today’s vote represents a huge turnaround in the Senate since the same resolution was killed by a 55-44 vote eight months ago. The large number of votes in favor shows how much opinion has changed on both the war on Yemen and the relationship with Saudi Arabia in less than a year. There is no question that the Khashoggi murder and the Trump administration’s ham-fisted Saudi First handling of things contributed significantly to the result, but there is also a growing awareness of and opposition to U.S. support for the war on Yemen. While there is still much more to be done to ensure final passage of the resolution, this is a significant step in the right direction. Sens. Sanders, Lee, and Murphy deserve great credit for their leadership in co-sponsoring the resolution and calling attention to our indefensible policy in Yemen, and many of their colleagues, including Sen. Rand Paul, have been doing important work on this issue for many years. Their persistence and political courage have brought us one step closer to ending our disgraceful involvement in the destruction and starvation of Yemen.
The Trump administration tried everything they could to browbeat the Senate into rejecting the resolution, and this time they completely failed. Mattis and Pompeo’s briefing went over even worse than I thought it would. Laura Rozen reports:
But the Donald Trump administration’s refusal to send CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief senators on the intelligence community’s assessment of the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, coupled with Pompeo’s urging of business as usual with the Saudis in a poorly received Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight, appeared to backfire. Several senators emerged from the briefing saying they planned to vote for legislation that would curtail US involvement in the war.
The Trump administration failed to grasp how much the ground had shifted on all issues related to the Saudis, and they leaned heavily on their Iran-obsessed rhetoric to try to distract senators from the very serious problems with U.S. policy and the atrocious nature of the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. Thanks to the Saudi government’s crimes, Trump and Pompeo’s brazen whitewashing of those crimes, and the sheer incompetence of the administration, there should now be enough votes to pass S.J.Res. 54.