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US Senate backs Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen

March 21, 2018 at 12:58 pm

People inspect the wreckage of a collapsed building after an air strike was carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

US senators voted to reject a war powers resolution seeking to withdraw military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

A group of bipartisan senators, including Bernie Sanders, pushed for a resolution to rescind the US’ involvement in Yemen’s civil war. The senators voted 55 to 44 against the resolution, rendering anti-Saudi war support efforts pushed back in to a vacuum.

The vote comes as Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), crown prince of Saudi Arabia, touched down in the US, which some commentators have dubbed as a shopping trip for arms. The resolution called for the immediate withdrawal of US military from Yemen, without congressional approval. The spotlight on Congress was levied after growing criticism against support for Saudi Arabia’s disproportional targeting of Yemen.

The Yemen civil war has seen nearly one million cases of cholera, a Saudi engineered blockade which has led to the starvation of Yemenis and more than 10,000 killed according to the United Nations.

Internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, currently residing in the Saudi capital Riyadh, requested military support from a coalition of Arab states after Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital in late 2014.

The push for removing support for Saudi Arabia did not include the US’ controversial and ongoing drone assassinations, taking place in Yemen since 2002. Early this month, more than a dozen human rights groups called on President Donald Trump to come clean over “secret” changes made to a controversial assassination policy. The loosening of the policy has led to heightened human rights concern globally, they argued.

US engagement in Yemen has remained a counter-terrorism operation, which has been blurred by supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. Human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that the US’ activity in Yemen are unlawful and that it has zero mandate to strike in Yemen. The existence of a civil war, and US support of it, exacerbates legal and political matters at Congress.

Donald Trump is also looking to boost exports of armed drones to more of its allies. Based on fierce competition from China and Israel in selling drones worldwide, the US will ease a policy on its foreign sales to stifle competitors. Foreign defence sales have been hampered by lobbying and advocacy work by human rights groups over the years, due to ongoing concerns for transparency, accountability and legality.

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