In a remarkable move, the US Senate voted Wednesday to advance a proposal that would force the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen – a horrific conflict that has become increasingly controversial in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside a Saudi consulate last month.
The Senate’s 63-to-37 vote was a direct rebuke to the Trump administration for its aggressive support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen – as well as the White House’s refusal to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in Khashoggi’s killing. The vote came just a few hours after a contentious, closed-door Senate briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who urged lawmakers not to move forward with the Yemen resolution.
“Abandoning Yemen would do immense damage to U.S. national security interests and those of our Middle Eastern allies and partners,” Pompeo told lawmakers in that closed-door session, according to excerpts released by the State Department Wednesday morning.
But his argument failed to persuade lawmakers, many of whom were eager to stand up to Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Republicans and Democrats alike also left the briefing furious that CIA Director Gina Haspel did not attend.
The CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince was involved in ordering the killing, although Saudi officials have denied that and President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence assessment. Lawmakers wanted a chance to hear directly from Haspel.