The Republican-controlled Senate dealt a stinging blow to President Donald Trump Thursday, voting to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s disastrous intervention in Yemen and officially condemning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The vote, which focused on curbing U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen through the War Powers Act, passed 56-41, with seven Republicans joining their Democratic counterparts. But it has no chance of going into effect this year, as House leaders controversially passed legislation Wednesday blocking any vote on the issue in their chamber until next year, when Democrats retake the House. Trump has vowed to veto the measure if and when it crosses his desk.
Soon after the historic vote on Yemen, senators passed a resolution, brought forth by outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker, that pinned Khashoggi’s death directly on the kingdom’s powerful crown prince.
The Senate’s twin actions Thursday are widely seen as a pointed, bipartisan rebuke to Trump, who has repeatedly shown a reluctance to condemn the Saudi royal family despite mounting evidence, including from his own intelligence community, that the crown prince was behind the Oct. 2 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
The U.S. entangled itself in Yemen in 2015, when President Obama signed off on providing military assistance — such as refueling Saudi jets — to Saudi forces fighting Houthi rebels in the impoverished country's civil war.
Years of brutal fighting and strategic blockades of key ports has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties and the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The country is at the edge of famine, with roughly half the population relying on international aid for survival, according to the United Nations.
But senators were clear that their vote to end U.S. military support in Yemen Thursday was as much a response to the spiraling crisis in Yemen as to Khashoggi’s brutal murder.
“I absolutely believe that if the crown prince came before a jury here in the United States of America, he would be convicted guilty in under 30 minutes,” Sen. Corker, a Tennessee Republican who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, said on the Senate floor this week. “I absolutely believe he directed it. I believe he monitored it. And I believe he is responsible for it.”
Cover image: Internally displaced Yemeni children outside their family's hut. One of the Arab world's poorest countries, Yemen has been embroiled in a devastating power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis for almost four years. (Hani Al-Ansi/AP Images)