Senate Votes to Drop Yemen Resolution, Signaling ‘Support for Yemen War Effort’

A U.S. Senate vote against a resolution on Yemen’s civil war signaled that Washington would continue to back Arab coalition military operations there, former U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 55-44 to drop the resolution, which was aimed at halting U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, saying that such backing was not authorized by Congress and had led to widespread suffering.

The vote came on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House for talks about the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen and other regional security threats, The New York Times reports. A White House statement said they “discussed the threat the Houthis pose to the region, assisted by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.” They also addressed the humanitarian crisis and the need for a political solution.

The Crown Prince also met lawmakers. Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee, said senators questioned the Crown Prince closely about Yemen during a meeting with him on Tuesday. In an emailed statement, the Saudi Embassy said they discussed “countering the threat posed by Iran and the Iran-backed Houthi militias and Saudi efforts to address and alleviate the humanitarian situation in Yemen.”

The resolution, which brought together a handful of Republicans and liberal Democrats, provided a venue for a highly unusual debate on the Senate floor on the 15th anniversary of American forces entering Iraq, over the extent of the use of force abroad and Congress’s role in doing so. According to the former officials, the vote signaled that lawmakers are worried about Yemeni civilian deaths, but that Riyadh can expect continued U.S. support with targeting and the midair refueling of its warplanes in Yemen.

“I don’t think the congressional action will change the degree of America’s involvement, if only because (U.S. Defense Secretary) Jim Mattis will convince them in private not to. Ongoing resolutions such as this cannot entirely be ignored, and given the Crown Prince’s inclination (to ultimately extricate Saudi Arabia from the war), this is just another push in the same direction,” Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official, said.

Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, said the vote marked a “significant” development.

“It highlights common understanding and shared strategic and geopolitical interests between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to take tangible measures in confronting the Iranian regime and the Houthis. Tehran continues to expand its proxy war in the region and illegally arm the Houthis. In addition, as a result of this development, the logistical, tactical, intelligence and military cooperation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia will more likely increase, which would pave the way to more effectively counter Iran regime and its militias,” he stated.

In a show of opposition, the Trump administration sent Pentagon and State Department officials to Capitol Hill last week to make the case in a classified briefing that the measure was misguided and could do lasting damage to the United States’ relationship with a key Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. Trump administration officials insist that American involvement in Yemen has been limited to noncombat support like intelligence sharing, logistics and military advice — and therefore is technically out of the senator’s reach.

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