US lawmakers expect votes on steps to crack down on Saudi Arabia
WASHINGTON - Reuters / AP
U.S. lawmakers have said the Senate could vote within weeks on legislation to punish Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen and the death of a journalist at its consulate in Istanbul.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Senate could vote before the end of the year on a resolution seeking to cut off all assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen.
He said it was also possible that measures to prevent arms sales to Riyadh would make it to the Senate floor.
“Senators are looking for some way to show Saudi Arabia the disdain they have for what has happened, with the journalist, but also concerns about the way Yemen has gone,” Corker told Reuters on Nov. 13 as lawmakers returned to Washington for the first time since last week’s congressional elections.
The killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey has heightened concerns in Congress about the Riyadh government, already raised by the war in Yemen, particularly over civilians killed in Saudi attacks.
“It would be very hard, if a weapons sale came up, to keep it from being undone, at least in the Senate,” Corker said.
Gulf Arab states have been battling since 2015 to restore a government driven out by the Houthis, Shi’ite Muslim fighters that Yemen’s neighbors view as agents of Iran. The war has killed more than 10,000 people and created the world’s most urgent humanitarian emergency.
Corker said his staff had asked that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Gina Haspel come to the Capitol as soon as late November for a classified briefing to address concerns about Yemen and Khashoggi’s death.
Trump’s Republicans kept control of the Senate in the Nov. 6 elections but lost their majority in the House of Representatives to Democrats.
Republicans will remain in charge of the House until the new Congress is seated in January, however, and voted on Tuesday to stop legislation in committee that would have ended U.S. support for the war in Yemen.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi signaled that things could change when Democrats take over, if not before.
“Real, immediate action must be taken by Congress to end this horrific humanitarian crisis,” she said in a statement.
Bolton says tape doesn’t link Saudi prince to critic’s death
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has said that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing of Khashoggi do not think it implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his death.
"That is not the conclusion that the people who have heard it have come to," John Bolton told reporters at a summit in Singapore.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that audio recordings related to the killing have been shared with Saudi Arabia and other nations, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada.
Bolton said Trump wants to learn the truth about what happened at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2. "I have not listened to the tape myself, but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, it does not, in any way, link the crown prince to the killing," Bolton said.
Trump picks retired general for ambassador to Saudi Arabia
A retired four-star general is President Trump’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, filling a key diplomatic vacancy at a time when U.S.-Saudi relations are being tested by the slaying of Khashoggi.
Trump announced Nov. 13 that he is nominating John Abizaid, the longest-serving commander of the U.S. Central Command, to lead the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. It’s a post that has been empty since former ambassador Joseph Westphal left in January 2017.
If confirmed by the Senate, Abizaid would become ambassador as the Trump administration is weighing the U.S. response to the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revoked the visas of the Saudis implicated in the killing. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said additional measures will be taken.
Abizaid, who retired in 2007, served in wars in Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Following the war in Iraq, Abizaid assumed control of CENTCOM, which overseas military operations in 20 nations stretching from northeast Africa to the Middle East to Central and South Asia.
Abizaid, of Nevada, currently works as a private consultant and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Previously, he was the distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He also served in various senior positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.