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US lawmakers ask Biden about plan to stop Saudi 'offensive operations' on Yemen

US President Joe Biden in South Carolina, US on 29 August 2019 [Sean Rayford/Getty Images]
US President Joe Biden in South Carolina, US on 29 August 2019 [Sean Rayford/Getty Images]

Following remarks that the US would continue its support for Saudi Arabia to defend itself, a group of 41 progressive lawmakers have sent a letter to US President Joe Biden asking him to clarify his pledge to halt US support for Saudi "offensive operations" in Yemen.

In his first foreign policy address earlier in February, Biden said his administration was: "Ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales."

However, he also promised that the US would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against missile attacks, including those from Iranian-backed militias like the Houthis in Yemen.

Therefore, the lawmakers sent him a letter expressing support for his decision to halt US support for the Saudi war in Yemen, but asked Biden to clarify what he meant by "military, intelligence [and] logistical" support.

In their letter, the lawmakers defined the "military, intelligence [and] logistical" as "offensive" activities.

"You have said that the United States will 'continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people' from 'threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries,'" the letter says.

READ: Saudi, US arms giant join forces to strengthen kingdom's defences

The letter written by Peter DeFazio, Ro Khanna and Debbie Dingell, and signed by 38 other lawmakers, asked: "What activities does this policy entail, and under what legal authority is the administration authorised to engage in such activities?"

Speaking to The Intercept, DeFazio claimed that he wasn't aware of any formal communication between the Biden administration and Congress about their policy, and confirmed that the letter intended to obtain answers.

"That raises questions that we would like to have answered," according to DeFazio. "How do you define weapons? What's the difference between an offensive weapon or a defensive weapon? Congress has acted a number of times to block arms sales to the Saudis. So, we just have a number of questions."

He added: "We think it's obviously a tremendous improvement over the position of the Trump administration. We would just like more clarification, more detail about what the shift means and also what [legal] authority they're depending upon to continue to be involved in this conflict in any way."

Meanwhile, Khanna told The Intercept: "My understanding is that the ban on any US participation in Saudi military strikes applies very broadly to any Saudi bombing or missile strikes into Yemen."

He added: "There is no wiggle room for the Saudis to claim they're attacking a place in Yemen out of self-defence. That is my understanding of how the administration intends the directive."

Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUSYemen
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