Underneath the mess of haphazard and outlandish public statements from President Donald Trump, his administration continues to suspiciously reshape global policy. This week, the newly Democratic majority House passed a measure that, if adopted, would end American support for Saudi-led intervention in a Civil War in Yemen sparked in part by rebellion against the Yemeni leadership from the Houthis.
Concerned members of Congress hope to use the War Powers Act to curtail American intervention, which the Trump administration argues isn’t warranted because of the absence of American “boots on the ground” in Yemen. Trump made support for the Saudis a key part of his foreign policy from the very beginning, visiting the kingdom as the first trip overseas of his presidency, where he signed a massive arms deal that in part was a resuscitation of old deals that had been halted because the Obama administration was concerned the weapons would be used against Yemeni civilians.
Part of the American arms support for the Saudi-led coalition has, in fact, resulted in civilian deaths. In late 2018, remnants of a U.S.-made bomb were found at the scene of an airstrike on a school bus that left some 40 children dead — and American weapons have popped up at other times, too. In March 2016 (before Trump took office, admittedly) an American bomb was reportedly used to kill 97 people at a Yemeni market.
The examples could go on both of the steep cost of American involvement in the effort to defeat the Houthis and the deeply precarious nature of the conflict itself.
That’s not all. The Saudi regime is also widely believed to be responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who contributed to The Washington Post. Trump has consistently refused to confront the Saudis over the incident, and his administration even missed a recent legally imposed deadline for a conclusion of who was responsible for the journalist’s death. The New York Times just recently reported that — as yet another condemning piece of evidence — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (who’s at times associated with Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner) told an underling in 2017 that he would “use a bullet” on the journalist if he didn’t let up in his criticism of the kingdom.
Republicans have at times joined the chorus of those calling out the Trump administration for refusing to respond appropriately — or in some cases at all — to these issues. Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate even passed a version of the new House resolution to end American support for Saudi intervention in Yemen, with the support of seven Republicans.
Whether the House’s reboot of that effort will make it through the Senate again remains to be seen. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who’s sponsoring the Senate version of the legislation, said he expects a vote within about 30 days, and Senate aides speaking to The Times said they were optimistic it would pass. The White House has threatened to block the resolution, which could prompt a significant showdown if it passes both chambers since Trump hasn’t even vetoed something once during his tenure so far.
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