Bernie Sanders slams 'despotic, dishonest' Saudi regime ahead of vote on Yemen war

Bernie Sanders slams 'despotic, dishonest' Saudi regime ahead of vote on Yemen war
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the US-Saudi relationship insisting that ending its support for the Yemen war would make the conflict "a hell of a lot worse".
3 min read
28 November, 2018
Senator Bernie Sanders called the Saudi leadership a "despotic, dishonest" regime [Getty]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defended Washington's support for Saudi Arabia' war in Yemen, while a number of Senators slammed the "dishonest" Riyadh regime.

In a private briefing on US relations with Saudi Arabia, ahead of a vote that could potentially curtail US support for Riyadh's devastating military campaign in Yemen, Pompeo said in prepared remarks: "The suffering in Yemen grieves me, but if the United States of America was not involved in Yemen, it would be a hell of a lot worse."

"Abandoning Yemen would do immense damage to US national security interests and those of our Middle Eastern allies and partners."

Ending US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which includes intelligence and target sharing, would actually lead to more deaths, Pompeo claimed.

"The Saudi-led coalition would not have the benefit of our advice and training on targeting, so more civilians would die," Pompeo said. 

Pompeo and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis were expected to be grilled on Yemen's humanitarian crisis, as well as the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Following the briefing, Pompeo told reporters he found "no direct link" between the Saudi de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman and the critic's murder.

However CIA chief Gina Haspel, who was given access to Turkey's evidence on the grisly killing, was reportedly prevented by the White House from attending.

Some US lawmakers have called for a strong US response to Khashoggi's murder, including blocking arms sales and imposing sanctions beyond those that Washington slapped on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the killing.

Following the briefing, Senator Bernie Sanders, who co-sponsored the resolution to end support for the war, had strong words about Riyadh's rulers, blaming the tens of thousands of deaths, starvation and cholera crisis in Yemen on "a despotic, dishonest dictatorship".

"The US Senate should tell the world we are not continuing our part in that humanitarian disaster, and we are going to do everything we can to force Saudis and Houthis to the peace table and provide the humanitarian aid yemen needs," he said.

Republican Senator Bob Corker also lashed out at the regime, describing Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as an "out of control" leader who has failed to "take ownership" over Khashoggi's death, whether he directed it or not. He added Riyadh was an "ally of sorts" and a "semi-important country".

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said he does not accept that the killing of Khashoggi took place without Prince Mohammad's knowledge. 

"Their argument interesting but not persuasive. This killing of an American resident, a Saudi citizen, cannot be ignored or overlooked."

"Our allies aren't always perfect in our eyes but we ask they are honest. There's no honesty in the relationship when it comes to Khashoggi".

President Donald Trump last week called Saudi Arabia a "steadfast partner" and said it was unclear whether Prince Mohammed was aware of the plan to kill Khashoggi, who Riyadh has acknowledged died inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate. 

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