From Informed Comment
Seven Republicans joined the Democrats in the Senate in voting for resolutions that 1) assigned the blame for the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and 2) invoked the War Powers Act of 1973 in calling for an end to US military involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
Neither house of the US Congress is typically very eager to get involved in foreign policy, which congressional representatives and senators typically leave to the president. (The Senate Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House counterpart are exceptions, but their deliberations seldom go to the whole Congress). How deep our current political crisis is under the beleaguered Trump presidency can be estimated by the mere fact that the Senate invoked the War Powers Resolution for the first time since it was enacted under Nixon in 1973.
First, Joint Resolution 69 asked for a diplomatic solution to the Yemen war, given that "nearly 12,000,000 people are suffering from "severe hunger," according to the United Nations' World Food Programme."
The Senators let Riyadh have it over the erratic and outrageous behavior of crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman:
- "... the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, in recent years, engaged in concerning behavior, including its conduct in the civil war in Yemen, apparent detention of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, undermining the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council, expulsion of the Canadian ambassador, suppression of dissent within the Kingdom, and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."
They also blast Riyadh for "misleading statements by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi" which, they say, "have undermined trust and confidence in the longstanding friendship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
The Senate therefore said that it...
- (1) believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi;
(2) acknowledges the United States Government has sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114-328; 22 U.S.C. 2656 note) for their roles in the murder;
(3) calls for the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure appropriate accountability for all those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder...
In other words, King Salman should have his own son, Mohammed Bin Salman, arrested and tried for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi!
- "...warns that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's increasing purchases of military equipment from, and cooperation with, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, challenges the strength and integrity of the long-standing military-to-military relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and may introduce significant national security and economic risks to both parties."
They go on to demand an end to the Yemen war, though they are careful to place some blame on Iran and the Houthi rebels.
These passages make for an absolutely astonishing and unprecedented document! They have played Perry Mason and convicted the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, of premeditated murder! He is the de facto ruler of the country, but he has been effectively barred from addressing Congress, and any state trip he makes to Washington, DC, will be awkward for years to come.
With regard to getting the US military out of Yemen, the Senators passed a separate measure: The full resolution, S. J. Res. 54 of Dec. 13, 2018, is here.
Just so Trump and his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, get the message right off the bat, the resolution is entitled "To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress."