Mattis: Pulling back U.S. military support in Yemen would be misguided

Aaron Brown
November 30, 2018

Angry senators on Wednesday accused the Trump administration of stonewalling in an effort to avoid linking Saudi Arabia's crown prince to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Jerusalem Post picked up a report carried by London-based The New Arab (al-Arabi al-Jadid) about a new initiative brewing between MbS and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Her absence so incensed lawmakers that one of the President's closest congressional allies threatened not only to vote for the Yemen resolution, but also to withhold his support from "any key vote" - including a government funding bill - until Haspel was sent to Capitol Hill for a briefing. Lawmakers also vented their frustration during a procedural vote on Yemen.

On Wednesday, Senators delivered a historic blow to the country's relationship with ally Saudi Arabia, a country whose leadership has committed notable human rights violations, by voting to move forward a resolution that would end all USA military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The legislation's early successes have been interpreted as a kick in the teeth to US President Donald Trump's unapologetic support for Riyadh, but some have questioned the timing of the proposal - and whether it will have any long-term effect on Washington's deep-rooted ties to the Kingdom.

On Wednesday a source said that the court had accepted the writ, and a prosecutor had asked a judge to determine if either Saudi Arabia or Yemen are investigating the prince for possible crimes against humanity. Several senators emerged from the briefing saying they planned to vote for legislation that would curtail U.S. involvement in the war. "Behind the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi lays a power struggle within the Saudi royal family that helped feed the paranoia and recklessness of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS], [which] eventually led to the death of Khashoggi", The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. "I think 80 percent of the people left the hearing this morning not feeling like an appropriate response has been forthcoming", Corker said.

The list of named individuals does not include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in Argentina for the G20 summit.

Several Republicans guessed that senators would try to soften the resolution with amendments. "But I also recognize that we can not limit civilian casualties or advance the peace effort commencing early next month in Sweden by disengaging" with the Saudis, he said in his prepared remarks. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told journalists after the briefing. I think we have a right to be briefed by the Central Intelligence Agency.

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The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country's infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The crown prince heads to a Group of 20 summit in Argentina this week amid worldwide pressure over the killing.

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At this point Graham said he believes the briefing is just for him, but he "hopes" that others can get a briefing if they want it, saying, "I would recommend they brief the entire Senate".

It's always been kind of a pragmatic relationship regardless of who's been in the White House.

Mattis, in prepared remarks released by the Pentagon, said told senators that morning that cutting off USA military support would undercut diplomatic efforts to end Yemen's civil war. Graham voted to advance the resolution. He said the resolution "sends a daily reminder to Saudi officials that USA residents reject their repressive tactics and strongly support freedom of thought and of the press".

"It is outrageous that we are willing to turn our eye away from such a murder because we have 'interests, '" Menendez said.

Both US secretaries stressed that the support for the Saudi-led war was necessary to counter Iran, which Washington has claimed, without providing a shred of evidence, is arming and directing the Houthi rebels who overthrew the US and Saudi puppet regime of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2014.

Both administration officials argued against suspending aid to Saudi, who they called a steadfast ally in the Middle East.

But senators were in no mood to back down. They have also said that they support the UN-led talks.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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