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Under increasing pressure from Congress, the Trump administration will curb its assistance to Saudi Arabia's deadly military campaign in Yemen, officials confirmed Friday.
کد خبر: ۸۵۰۱۸۱
تاریخ انتشار: ۱۹ آبان ۱۳۹۷ - ۰۸:۴۸ 10 November 2018

Under increasing pressure from Congress, the Trump administration will curb its assistance to Saudi Arabia's deadly military campaign in Yemen, officials confirmed Friday.

The Defense and State departments said Friday that the U.S. would stop refueling Saudi fighter planes as the regime undertakes bombing campaigns that have resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.

The New York Times first reported the decision, casting it as a move by the administration to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of the Saudi regime. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month, after trying to obtain documents he needed to marry his finance.

Khashoggi's death sparked international outrage, as well as intense scrutiny of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. President Donald Trump and other top administration officials have until now resisted calls to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia or otherwise penalize the regime for Khashoggi's death, citing the royal family's assistance in U.S. efforts to counter Iran.

The State Department did not comment on the decision but referred reporters to a statement from the Saudi government's official news agency. That statement said the Saudis no longer needed the Americans' assistance to refuel its planes because of its own military advances.

"Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen," the Saudi government statement said. "As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen."

Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement late Friday that he supported the Saudi's decision to use its "own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen." He said the U.S. was focused on supporting a United Nations-led resolution to the conflict.

The announcement came just hours after two key senators called on the Trump administration to end its refueling of Saudi planes.

"We call on the Trump administration to immediately end U.S. air refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen," Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Todd Young, R-Ind., who both sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement earlier Friday.

"If the administration does not take immediate steps, including ending U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft, we are prepared to take additional action when the Senate comes back into session,” the bipartisan pair wrote.

Last week, Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both called for a cease-fire and a negotiated solution to the conflict. Pompeo urged the warring parties to support the U.N.-led effort to broker a political resolution to the war – an effort that has proved unsuccessful over three years of bloody conflict.

But in the wake of that public pressure, the Saudis mounted fresh attacks on a key Yemeni port, and the Houthis also escalated their activity in the region – moves that threatened to worsen an already horrific humanitarian situation. Some foreign policy experts said the new aggressions amounted to a slap in the face to the Trump administration.

And with Congress scheduled to reconvene next week, the likelihood of a contentious political showdown on Yemen seemed increasingly likely.

The U.S. has also provided military intelligence to the Saudis in the Yemen war, and there was no indication that would end. And some in Congress suggested they were not satisfied with Friday's announcement.

“By finally ending refueling missions for Saudi bombers, the Trump administration is admitting our joint operation in Yemen has been a disaster," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement.

"So why only cut off refueling support? Why are we still helping the Saudis with targeting? Why are we still selling them the bombs at a discount?" Murphy asked. "Now that it's no longer a secret that the war in Yemen is a national security and humanitarian nightmare, we need to get all the way out. I will join several other colleagues to introduce a resolution in the coming weeks to do just that.”

The State Department did not comment on the New York Times' report that the U.S. would soon impose sanctions on more than a dozen Saudi officials deemed to be involved in Khashoggi's murder.

The war in Yemen is a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and its arch enemy in the region, Iran. Iran has backed the Houthi rebels who overthrew Yemen's previous government. Saudi Arabia, as well as the U.S., fears that Iran is using the war in Yemen to expand its reach in the region.

The war has killed or injured at least 17,000 civilians, including hundreds of children, according to the United Nations. It has also put more than 8 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation.

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