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Senate Votes to Withdraw Support for Saudi War in Yemen in Rebuke to Trump

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 9, 2018. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)

The Senate passed a resolution Thursday withdrawing congressional support for the continued U.S. backing of a Saudi-led coalition’s ongoing proxy war against Iranian-funded rebel forces in Yemen, in a strong rebuke to the Trump administration.

A bipartisan coalition of Senators, motivated largely by opposition to Saudi Arabia’s extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two and a half months ago, voted 56–41 to end U.S. support for the civil war between Houthi rebels and government forces that has precipitated a massive humanitarian crisis.

The resolution, which for the first time in history required the Senate to utilize the authority delegated to it by the War Powers Act of 1973, prohibits the continued U.S. refueling of Saudi airplanes and scales down the number of supporting American forces in the region.

“It’s important to send a message,” said Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who sponsored the bill along with Republican Mike Lee of Utah, before the vote.

“My very strong expectation is that in January, with Democratic control over the House, it will succeed,” Sanders added, referring to the resolution’s prospects for passing the lower chamber next year.

Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, urged lawmakers to reject the resolution on the grounds that it would jeopardize America’s key strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, which it relies upon heavily to constrain the regional influence of Iran.

The resolution passed hours after the two factions fighting in Yemen agreed to a cease-fire in a key port city in order to allow humanitarian aid to enter the famine-ravaged nation.

The Senate is also considering a bill — introduced last week by Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Todd Young of Indiana — that would discontinue arms sales to Saudi Arabia and sanction those who block famine-relief efforts in Yemen.

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