McConnell: Yemen Resolution Will Not Increase Our Diplomatic Leverage
'Regarding Yemen, it is completely understandable that Senators have concerns over the war, the American interests entangled in it, and its consequences for Yemeni civilians. I think there is bipartisan agreement - shared by the administration - that our objective should be the end of this horrible conflict. But this resolution will not end this conflict. It will not help Saudi pilots avoid civilian casualties.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the Yemen resolution introduced by Senators Sanders, Lee and Murphy:
“The Senate will soon vote on a resolution under the War Powers Act. I strongly oppose this unnecessary and counterproductive resolution and I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing it. From the outset, let me say this: I believe it is right for Senators to have grave concerns over some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s behavior, particularly the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is not what this resolution is about. In December, the Senate voted on a resolution that addressed this institution’s concerns about Saudi Arabia.
“If Senators continue to have concerns about Saudi behavior, they should raise them in hearings, and directly with the administration, and directly with Saudi officials – as I have done. And they should allow a vote on the confirmation of retired General John Abizaid, whose nomination to be US Ambassador to Riyadh is being held up by Democrat obstruction. They should also allow a vote on the nomination of David Schenker to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. He’s been held up here for nearly a year. If we want to solve problems in the Middle East through diplomacy, we will need to confirm diplomats.
“Regarding Yemen, it is completely understandable that Senators have concerns over the war, the American interests entangled in it, and its consequences for Yemeni civilians. I think there is bipartisan agreement – shared by the administration – that our objective should be the end of this horrible conflict. But this resolution will not end this conflict. It will not help Saudi pilots avoid civilian casualties.
“It will not enhance America’s diplomatic leverage. In fact, it will make it harder to achieve these objectives. This is an inappropriate and counterproductive measure. First, the administration has already ended air-to-air refueling of coalition aircraft. We only provide limited non-combat support to the UN-recognized Yemeni government and to the Saudi-led coalition. It certainly does not constitute hostilities.
“Second, there are real threats from the Houthis in Yemen whom Iran is backing. Missiles and explosives are being aimed at civilians. Anti-ship missiles are being fired at vessels in key shipping lanes of global importance. If one of those missiles kills a large number of Saudi or Emirati civilians -- let alone Americans who live in Riyadh or Dubai -- say goodbye to any hope of a negotiated end to this conflict. These threats won’t evaporate if the US ends its limited support, so think of the American citizens who live in the region.
“Third, our focus should be on ending the war in Yemen responsibly. Pulling the plug on support to our partners only undermines the very leverage and influence that we need to help facilitate the UN’s diplomatic efforts. The US will be in a better position to encourage the Saudi-led coalition to take diplomatic risks if our partners trust that we appreciate the significant, legitimate threat they face from the Houthis. And fourth, we face real threats from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We need cooperation from Yemen, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to defeat these terrorists.
“So we should think twice about undermining those very partners whose cooperation we need for our own security. Here is my bottom line. We should not use this specific vote on a specific policy decision as some proxy for all the Senate’s broad feelings about foreign affairs. Concerns about Saudi human rights issues should be directly addressed with the administration and with Saudi officials. That’s what I have done.
“And as for Yemen, we need to ask what action will actually serve our goal -- that is, working with partners to encourage a negotiated solution. Would withdrawing our support facilitate efforts to end the war? Or just embolden the Houthis? Would sending this signal enhance, or weaken, our leverage over the Saudi-led coalition? Would voting for this resolution strengthen the hand of the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, or undermine his work? Would we prefer that Saudi Arabia and the UAE go to China and Russia for assistance instead of the United States? The answers to these questions are clear as day. We need to vote ‘no’ on this misguided resolution.”
Related Issues: National Security