Defying US President Donald Trump, senators sent a strong signal that they want to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
By a bipartisan 63-37 vote, the US Senate opted to move forward with legislation calling for an end to US involvement in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.
The vote on Wednesday was a rebuke not only to Saudi Arabia, but also to Trump’s administration, which has made clear it does not want to torpedo the long-standing US relationship with Riyadh over the killing.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis went to Capitol Hill to lobby against the resolution, which would call for an end to US military assistance for the conflict that human rights advocates say is wreaking havoc on Yemen and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.
The vote showed a significant number of Republicans were willing to break with Trump to express their deep dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and with the US response to Khashoggi’s brutal killing in Turkey last month.
US intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has equivocated over who was to blame.
Khashoggi, who lived in the US and wrote for the Washington Post, was publicly critical of the prince.
He was killed in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, which he had visited for marriage paperwork.
Echoing Trump’s public comments on the killing, Pompeo said after Wednesday’s briefing with senators that there was “no direct reporting” connecting the prince to the murder.
Mattis said there was “no smoking gun” making the connection.
Pompeo said that the war in Yemen would be “a hell of a lot worse” if the US were not involved.
Wednesday’s procedural vote sets up a floor debate on the resolution next week.
However, it would be largely a symbolic move, as House Republican leaders have given no indication they would take up the war powers measure before the end of the year — the end of the current Congress.
Several senators said they were angry about the absence of CIA Director Gina Haspel from the briefing.
US Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, speculated that Haspel did not attend because she “would have said with a high degree of confidence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is often strongly allied with Trump, voted to move forward with the resolution and said he would insist on a briefing from Haspel.
He even threatened to withhold his vote on key measures if that did not happen and said: “I’m not going to blow past this.”
However, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett said that no one had kept Haspel away from the committee briefing.
The CIA had already briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate leaders, and “will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress,” he said.
A White House official said Haspel decided not to participate in part because of frustration with lawmakers leaking classified intelligence from such settings. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The procedural vote received more Republican support than had been expected after the resolution, sponsored by senators Mike Lee, a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, an independent, fell six votes short of passage earlier this year.
Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, said he believes the Senate should “figure out some way for us to send the appropriate message to Saudi Arabia that appropriately displays American values and American national interests.”
The crown prince “owns this death. He owns it,” Corker said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, voted against moving ahead with the resolution, but a day earlier had said that “some kind of response” was needed from the US for Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi’s death.
“What obviously happened, as basically certified by the CIA, is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world,” McConnell said on Tuesday.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
LONGSTANDING NEUTRALITY: The US request came as it vied for influence in Southeast Asia with China, but Indonesia has never let foreign militaries operate there Indonesia this year rejected a proposal by the US to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter have said. US officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers before Indonesian President Joko Widodo rebuffed the request, the officials said. Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defense minister, the US Department of State’s Office of Press Relations and the US embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the US Department of Defense and Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL: The two prime ministers agreed to ease entry bans, and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, yesterday agreed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi, Suga and Phuc set up a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such agreements to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said that his four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia would be key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he has no problem with being held responsible for the many killings under his crackdown on drugs, and that he is ready to face charges that could land him in jail, but not charges of crimes against humanity. Duterte’s televised remarks were among his clearest acknowledgement of the prospects that he could face a deluge of criminal charges for the bloody campaign he launched after taking office in the middle of 2016. Police have reported that at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since