0718 GMT March 19, 2019
While Saudi Arabia continues to receive unconditional support from the administration of US President Donald Trump, Riyadh’s stature has plummeted in the halls of Capitol Hill.
The Trump White House has so far resisted international pressure to go after the de facto Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for his actions.
Besides leading a deadly war on Yemen since March 2015, the crown prince is also accused of ordering a hit job on dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2, Presstv Reported.
Trump argues that punishing Saudi Arabia in high times like this would alienate the longtime ally and push it away towards Russia, jeopardizing Israel and billions of dollars in arms deals.
American lawmakers, however, are not buying that argument and think the US can still punish MbS without harming ties.
A bipartisan group of US Senators have brought a resolution which, if approved, would give the Trump administration 30 days to pull troops in or “affecting” Yemen, unless they are fighting al Qaeda.
“In March 2015, Saudi Arabia instituted a naval and aerial blockade on Yemen, and currently maintains strict limits on air and sea transit to the country which contribute to delays of critical humanitarian aid and commercial supplies to a nation that imports as much as 90 percent of its food and relies on imported fuel,” the resolution reads.
The US and a series of other Western countries continue to provide Saudi Arabia with weapons and intelligence despite the atrocities in Yemen.
Timothy Lenderking, the deputy assistant secretary for Persian Gulf affairs in the Near East Bureau of the US Department of State, told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday that Washington was under pressure to stop supporting the military aggression.
"There are pressures in our system ... to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” Lenderking said, according to Reuters.
“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary,” he added, referring to a Saudi-led coalition—including the UAE—which has been pounding Yemeni targets since March 2015. “It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support.”
The resolution also seeks to declare with “high confidence” the MbS was indeed behind Khashoggi’s murder.
The measure’s sponsors have accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis of “misleading” the lawmakers about Khashoggi.
Pompeo claimed last month that there was no definitive evidence that MbS was behind Khashoggi’s murder, while Mattis simply said there was “no smoking gun.”