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US lawmakers to reintroduce bill to end support for Saudi-led forces in Yemen

Bill would require President Donald Trump's administration to stop providing logistical support to Saudi-led coalition war efforts in Yemen
Conflict in Yemen has pushed half the country's population to brink of famine (Reuters)

US Senators Mike Lee and Bernie Sanders are on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum - the former, a Republican from Utah, is a staunch conservative and the latter is a Democratic socialist from Vermont.

But they have come together, along with a host of other US lawmakers, to demand an end to Washington's involvement in the devastating war in Yemen.

On Wednesday, members of the Senate and US House of Representatives announced they would re-introduce a bill requiring President Donald Trump's administration to stop providing logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition's war efforts in Yemen.

In December, a similar bill cleared the Senate in a 56-41 vote but was blocked by the House, which was then under the control of Republicans.

To come into effect, the new bill would need to clear the Senate and the House, and then be sent to the White House for Trump to sign. He has vowed to veto the bill, meaning it would go back to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote can override a presidential veto.

Still, the Senate vote last year was the first time Congress invoked the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which gives it the power to withdraw US involvement from wars it has not authorised.

Senate votes to end US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen
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"Late last year, I had the opportunity to meet with several brave human rights activists from Yemen urging Congress to put a stop to this war," Sanders said during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

"And they told me very clearly: When Yemenis see 'Made in USA' on the bombs that are killing them, it tells them that the United States of America is responsible for this war."

Saudi Arabia, with support from the United Arab Emirates, launched its military operation in Yemen in 2015 to root out Houthi rebels and restore President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power.

The US military provides intelligence and logistics support to Saudi forces, and up until recently, it was also assisting with mid-air refuelling of Saudi jets.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing conflict and Yemen is facing widespread malnutrition and diseases.

'Congress is acting'

Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, said the war has pushed more than half of Yemen's population - about 14 million people - to the brink of starvation.

“There’s no complex foreign policy; it’s a matter of human decency and this resolution will make it clear that the coalition should stop the bombing campaign and come to the table and negotiate,” Khanna said during the news conference.

In a statement, Khanna said the reintroduced bill has the backing of the current House leadership and is expected to come up for a vote next month.

It’s a matter of human decency and this resolution will make it clear that the coalition should stop the bombing campaign and come to the table and negotiate

- Ro Khanna, Democratic congressman

He also said he believes the recent actions Congress has taken on Yemen helped bring the country's warring parties to the negotiating table.

Representatives for the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition met in Sweden in December for United Nations-brokered peace talks, the first in years.

Both sides agreed to a prisoner exchange as a result of those negotiations, as well as a ceasefire deal in the critical port city of Hodeidah, which is a key entry point for humanitarian goods entering Yemen.

“I am 100 percent convinced that the only reason those parties have come to the negotiating table … is because the Congress is acting," Khanna said.

Bipartisan efforts to end Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have been widely viewed as a sharp rebuke of the US president.

Trump has vowed to remain a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia and the country's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), despite journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder and amid growing international outrage over the situation in Yemen.

Late last year, senior members of the Trump administration repeatedly sought to convince US lawmakers to vote against the Yemen resolutions.

Then-Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked members of the House “to continue the military advising, logistics support and intelligence that have for years been shared with Saudi Arabia", the New York Times reported in mid-December.

Pompeo also previously said the US-Saudi partnership was "vital" to US national security interests and the stabilisation of the Middle East.

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