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Senators doubt benefit of US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen

Senators grill Trump administration officials, saying there's an 'alarming absence of strategy' when it comes to Yemen.

humanitarian crisis

US senators demanded answers from the administration of President Donald Trump on its continued support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen

Senators on both sides of the political spectrum accused the administration of not having a coherent strategy in Yemen as they questioned Department of State and Pentagon officials during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"If your son was shooting off his pistol in the backyard and doing it indiscriminately and endangering the neighbours, would you give him more bullets or less?" Republican Senator Rand Paul asked at the hearing on Tuesday. 

"Our strategy is to give [the Saudis] more bombs, not less," he added. 

Ambassador David M Satterfield, the State Department's Middle East Envoy, told the panel that US "military support to the Saudi-led coalition supports important US national security and diplomatic objectives".

These included the defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and al-Qaeda in Yemen, as well as containing Iranian influence in the region.

But Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said there was an "alarming absence of strategy" when it came to the administration's approach to Yemen. 

'Don't make statements that you can't back up'

The Saudi-led coalition has fought Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015, when it launched a military intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstating the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have been killed and at least 40,000 wounded, mostly from Saudi-led air raids during the war. 

The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of targeting civilians and creating a humanitarian crisis through a crippling blockade, causing food insecurity and a cholera outbreak.

The Houthis, who reportedly receive support from Iran, control regions of Yemen that house the majority of the country's population. This includes the capital, Sanaa.

Satterfield warned that if the US ends its support, "the Saudis could well pursue defence relationships with countries that do not have an interest in ending the humanitarian crisis, minimising civilian casualties, or making progress towards a political solution".

But Democratic Senator Ben Cardin asked if US officials could legitimately say that US support reduced civilians casualties, since there are no figures to back up these claims.

"The proof is in the results, and we don't know whether the results are there or not," Cardin said during the hearing.

"This is the US reputation on the line, and we expect you to know if you report something. If you can't report it, fine. But don't make statements that you can't back up."


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