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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Senate blocks Yemen resolution aimed at restricting US military role

The Senate voted 55 to 44 in favour of tabling the Yemen war powers resolution

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn after speaking at the Senate on the US's role in support of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen civil war, on March 20, 2018. James Lawler Duggan / Reuters
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn after speaking at the Senate on the US's role in support of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen civil war, on March 20, 2018. James Lawler Duggan / Reuters

The United States Senate voted on Tuesday to sink a resolution that would have restricted the US military role in Yemen and ended its support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Two hours after Donald Trump’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House, the Senate voted 55 to 44 in favour of tabling the Yemen war powers resolution, blocking its passage.

The bill called to end to all US military operations in support of the Saudi-led coalition, requiring any American forces not involved in fighting Al Qaeda to leave the country within 30 days. Sponsored by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, Republican Senator Mike Lee and Democrat Chris Murphy, it said "unless and until a declaration of war or specific authorisation for such use of United States Armed Forces has been enacted".

The move to shelve the resolution came after strong opposition from the Pentagon and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Mr Mattis met with members of Congress and sent a letter urging an effort to scuttle the bill and avoid any restrictions on the US military.

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Mr Mattis's letter, first reported by The Washington Post, cautioned that the resolution, if passed, "could increase civilian casualties, jeopardise co-operation with our partners on counter-terrorism, and reduce our influence with the Saudis - all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis".

Earlier on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed met members of Congress including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senators Bob Corker and Ron Jonson, Congressmen Ed Royce and Eliott Engel and others.

A read-out from the Saudi embassy in Washington said “the Crown Prince also discussed the situation in Yemen, and how the two countries can work together towards a political solution”. The Saudi side also stressed the need to counter the “threat posed by Iran and the Iran-backed Houthi militias, particularly the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles, and threats to strategic maritime shipping that threaten to destabilise the Gulf region at large”.

The war enters its fourth year this month. Mr Mattis visited Oman last week in an effort to address arms smuggling to the Houthis and to explore political paths towards possible settlement. Following the visit, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi travelled to Iran and held talks with Iranian officials.

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