Despite a remarkable bipartisan consensus against the U.S.’s involvement in Yemen’s brutal civil war, the Trump Administration is simply refusing to give up on Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, the Senate voted (again) to pass a resolution condemning the war, a political move expected to clash with Trump’s policymakers, who time and time again have defended their cozy relationship with the Saudi royal family at the cost of thousands of Yemeni lives.
Following the vote, the Trump administration doubled down, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that while “we all want this conflict to end,” the U.S. must continue to back the Saudis.
“We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation,” he said on Friday. “But the Trump administration fundamentally disagrees that curbing our assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is the way to achieve these goals.”
You really can’t put it more plainly than that. The resolution now goes back to the House (which passed a similar but not concurrent resolution in February), where it will likely pass and then be immediately vetoed by Trump.
“If you truly care about Yemeni lives, you’d support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state,” Pompeo continued, before launching into a screed about Iran’s involvement with the Houthi rebel groups that oppose Yemen’s Saudi-backed government.
The politics of Yemen’s civil war are complicated. But at this point, it seems clear that any reasonable moral solution to the war there does not include militarily supporting the Saudi regime, which has been utterly ruthless in its pursuit of victory, using U.S.-supplied weapons indiscriminately against civilians. Saudi commanders, when provided with the most technologically advanced munitions available, have blatantly ignored directives not to strike civilian targets, for which they have been rewarded with still more weaponry. Nominal efforts to curb the damage, like ending U.S. forces’ in-flight refueling of the Saudi jets, have had little effect on the regime’s ability to cause harm.
Both houses of Congress know this. While many members of the Republican Party have remained committed to supporting Saudi forces in Yemen, seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the Senate resolution. There’s almost no chance the president will do the same, but at least now it’s harder to argue that the blood that comes from this isn’t on his hands.