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Senate scuttles resolution to stop US support for Saudi military campaign in Yemen

Defense Secretary James Mattis met privately with Senate Republicans to oppose the measure hours before the vote

Gulf News

Washington: The Senate scuttled a resolution opposed by the Trump administration that called on the US military to stop aiding Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, acting the same day President Donald Trump and top lawmakers met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

The 55-44 vote Tuesday shelves the measure indefinitely.

Defense Secretary James Mattis met privately with Senate Republicans to oppose the measure hours before the vote.

The administration contended the resolution could damage US-Saudi relations as the two countries seek to develop an increasingly close partnership on issues such as isolating Iran and bolstering business ties.

The resolution sought to remove US assistance from the fighting between a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Al Houthi militants in Yemen.

Since 2015, the US has provided the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen with air-to-air refueling, intelligence assessments and other military advice.

It’s been estimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed or wounded in the fighting in Yemen.

About 2 million people, out of a population of 28 million, have been displaced from their homes, and nearly 1 million have contracted cholera.

In a letter to Senate leaders last month, defense officials said the president has the authority to direct the US actions because they don’t count as “hostilities” under the war powers resolution approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Removing US forces “could call into question the statutory authority for ongoing US counterterrorism operations in Yemen,” wrote William Castle, acting general counsel of the Defense Department.

Prince Mohammad on Sunday defended his country’s involvement in Yemen at the outset of a three-week US tour to generate good will for his nation.

He said Al Houthis have launched missiles, smuggled in by Iran, at his nation’s capital, Riyadh, and that the US wouldn’t tolerate comparable attacks on its cities from, for example, Mexico.

Prince Mohammad accused rebel forces of exploiting the situation in Yemen to win sympathy from the international community.

“I hope that this militia ceases using the humanitarian situation to their advantage in order to draw sympathy from the international community,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

“They block humanitarian aid in order to create famine and a humanitarian crisis.”

Prince Mohammad met Tuesday with Trump, McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other congressional leaders.

He also plans to meet with executives from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google during his first trip to the US since becoming crown prince.

In New York, he’ll host a forum for business executives and meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and he’ll visit Saudi oil company Aramco’s research center in Houston on April 7.

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