'Missed opportunity': Critics assail Trump's veto of Yemen bill

US politicians decry Trump's decision to veto bill that would have ended US involvement in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.

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    A man walks on the rubble of houses at the site of a Saudi-led air attack in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen [Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters]
    A man walks on the rubble of houses at the site of a Saudi-led air attack in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen [Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters]

    Washington, DC - Members of the United States Congress criticised President Donald Trump's veto of a resolution that would have ended US military support for the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen, calling it a "missed opportunity". 

    "From a president elected on the promise of putting a stop to our endless wars, this veto is a painful missed opportunity," said Democrat Ro Khanna, who was the lead sponsor of the bill in the US House of Representatives.

    "This resolution nonetheless was a major win," Khanna said in a statement. "It sends a clear signal to the Saudis that they need to lift their blockade and allow humanitarian assistance into Yemen if they care about their relationship with Congress."

    The Yemen War Powers Resolution was a bipartisan effort to promote an end to the world's largest humanitarian crisis, Khanna said.

    The bill was supported by Democrats and some of the president's Republican allies in Congress, including Senator Rand Paul and Representative Mark Meadows, among others. 

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    "The people of Yemen desperately need humanitarian help, not more bombs," tweeted Senator Bernie Sanders, who was the lead sponsor of the bill in the US Senate. "I am disappointed but not surprised that Trump has rejected the bipartisan resolution to end US involvement in the horrific war in Yemen."

    The House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46. It was the first time in 47 years that Congress invoked its constitutional authority to try to stop US involvement in a foreign conflict.

    Trump vetoed the bill on Tuesday. Congress is unlikely to muster sufficient votes to override Trump's veto.

    "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," Trump said in a statement.

    Other bills

    Advocates for the Yemen resolution are likely to turn their attention now to legislation in the House that would ban further US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a bill in the Senate that would also impose financial sanctions on individual Saudis.

    "There are other bills that people will turn their attention to," said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the CodePink peace advocacy group.

    "Unfortunately, the war is not stopping. So, we will both be pushing to try to get an override of the veto as well as pushing these other vehicles," she told Al Jazeera. 

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    Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, introduced legislation in January with bipartisan support that would stop all arms sales and US aid to Saudi Arabia. The bill is pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    In the Senate, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has introduced a bill that calls for an end to the war in Yemen, and would impose financial and travel sanctions on individual Saudis. It is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    'Breaking point'

    US politicians have grown uneasy with Trump's close relationship with Saudi Arabia as his administration tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.

    Many legislators also criticised the president for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the kingdom.

    Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his wedding. US intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in his murder.

    Vetoing the measure is an "effective green light for the war strategy that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis to continue", said International Rescue Committee (IRC) president and CEO David Miliband. 

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    "Yemen is at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure."

    Since 2015, the US has provided the aerial refuelling of jets, reconnaissance, targeting and intelligence information to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in their campaign against the Houthi rebels who unseated the Saudi-backed government in Yemen.

    The UAE hailed the veto, adding that the decision is both "timely and strategic".

    "President Trump's assertion of support to the Arab Coalition in Yemen is a positive signal," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter early on Wednesday.

    Aid groups estimate that as many as 60,000 civilians have been killed in the war and as many as 85,000 children starved to death, with millions more "one step away from famine".

    The fighting in the Arab world's poorest country has also left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages.

    "There are 22 million souls at risk of dying, of being killed. Maybe not of being shot, but being starved to death or dying from medical problems for which they can receive no medicines," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer previously told reporters.

    "It is a humanitarian crisis. I would refer to it in even more draconian terms because I think it's such a conscious effort by both sides to put these people at risk," he added. "It is necessary for us to act."

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News