Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018
Business

Despite Yemen's vote, no change in Saudi politics is likely before next year

The Senate is prepared to respond to the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a historic vote next week to end US support for Saudi hostilities in Yemen. However, it will certainly be necessary to wait until next year for radical changes in Saudi politics to have a clearing Congress chance.

Rising momentum to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for ordering Khashoggi's murder – and reprimanding President Trump for supporting Mohammed's denials – faces a traditional two-year hurdle: the end of the Congress session . With only a few days left on the legislative agenda, leaders are reluctant to devote valuable time to anything that is not already mandatory, a limitation that may leave unanswered the most important Saudi proposals.

"We do not have the time this year," said Senator Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.), ticking off the main proposed proposals: sanctions against Saudi officials, a moratorium on transfers of 39, weapons, an official condemnation of the Crown Prince and a move to end the US involvement in the Saudi Yemeni campaign. Graham guessed that somewhere between them was a compromise bill that could guarantee support for the veto.

But it will take time to find a balance and I do not think we have the time to do that right now, Graham said.

The only measure related to Saudi Arabia that the Senate will be sure to take this year is a Sens resolution. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Mike Lee (R-Utah) to invoke the War Powers Act and end US military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

The adoption of the Yemen resolution would send a powerful political signal, although some senators have disputed the impact that this could have on US-Saudi cooperation, following the decision by the Trump government on last month to stop refueling Saudi planes. Washington continues to provide information and logistical support to Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, the resolution got 63 votes unprecedented last week to lift a procedural hurdle and if it remains virtually unchanged, it should maintain enough support to overtake the Senate, according to its supporters and critics. But it is unlikely that lawmakers will be able to force leaders in the House to vote before the end of the year – and nothing prevents Trump from vetoing the measure.

Yemen's resolution is also an unlikely vehicle for other Saudi-related legislation aimed at punishing the kingdom. To avoid losing support for the resolution, senators are considering narrowly limiting the scope of the amendments that can be attached to it – and their supporters claim that no other legislation related to Saudi Arabia will make this reduction.

The only way to include something like a sanctions bill "would be to open the door to all types of amendments, and it would be a disaster," Sen. Robert Menendez said. (DN.J.), who co-drafted a bill to sanction Saudi officials and put an end to arms transfers with Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), Graham et al.

Saudi legislation is therefore open only to another potential vehicle: an expenditure bill that Congress must adopt before 21 December. But the main property owners simply do not want to weigh it down.

"The less things we put on the bill of approval, the more chance of passage," said Thursday the Senate Committee on Credits Chairman, Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). "I would rather deal with credit for the most part and leave the laws aside wherever I can."

In this context, a group of bipartisan senators met on Thursday morning to discuss how best to continue their efforts to counter Saudi Arabia and to avoid Trump's reluctance to criticize his leader. Republican lawmakers have stepped out of the meeting to call for the signing of a committee next week to improve sanctions legislation and try to get support from across the political spectrum.

"If we could just launch a new product that would have 60 co-sponsors, that would be a good starting point. . . it's the product that will become your starting point for next year, "Graham said.

The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Who is retiring at the end of the year, also advocated a strongly rotating approach, saying it would facilitate the revitalization of the Senate. the legislation.

"It's not like we're leaving; I mean, it will be reported next year, "Corker said.

But many lawmakers fear that Corker's successor, Senator James E. Risch (R-Idaho) may not be so willing to push Saudi measures into the Senate. While Corker is one of Trump's most critical, Risch is one of the congressional's closest allies and is known to be a strong supporter.

But in an interview Thursday, Risch said that, regardless of his personal preferences regarding relations with Saudi Arabia, he would seek to honor the consensus on the issue.

"The consensus seems to be that it will not go away until something is done," he said.

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