Senate vote ‘signals US support for Yemen war effort’

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, crippled Yemen’s economy and left more than 22 million of the country’s 25 million people dependent on aid handouts.
Updated 22 March 2018
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Senate vote ‘signals US support for Yemen war effort’

NEW YORK: A US Senate vote against a resolution on Yemen’s civil war signaled that Washington would continue to back Arab coalition military operations there, former US officials told Arab News on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 55-44 to drop the resolution, which was aimed at halting US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, saying that such backing was not authorized by Congress and had led to widespread suffering.
According to the former officials, the vote signaled that lawmakers are worried about Yemeni civilian deaths, but that Riyadh can expect continued US support with targeting and the midair refueling of its warplanes in Yemen.
“I don’t think the congressional action will change the degree of America’s involvement, if only because (US Defense Secretary) Jim Mattis will convince them in private not to,” Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official, told Arab News.
“Ongoing resolutions such as this cannot entirely be ignored, and given the Crown prince’s inclination (to ultimately extricate Saudi Arabia from the war), this is just another push in the same direction.”
Nabeel Khoury, an Atlantic Council scholar and former State Department official, said the vote indicated concern among lawmakers about the war, but not that Congress was “forcing the hand of the administration” to halt military support in Yemen.
But lawmakers were likely to continue raising the issue and have indicated a “strong expression of sympathy with Yemen and concern over the US involvement in that war,” Khoury said.
The vote came on the same day that US President Donald Trump met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House for talks about the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen and other regional security threats.
A White House statement said they “discussed the threat the Houthis pose to the region, assisted by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.” They also addressed the humanitarian crisis and the need for a political solution.
The crown prince also met lawmakers. Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee, said senators questioned the crown prince closely about Yemen during a meeting with him on Tuesday.
In an emailed statement to Arab News, the Saudi Embassy said they discussed “countering the threat posed by Iran and the Iran-backed Houthi militias” and Saudi “efforts to address and alleviate the humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, said the vote marked a “significant” development. “It highlights common understanding and shared strategic and geopolitical interests between the US and Saudi Arabia to take tangible measures in confronting the Iranian regime and the Houthis. Tehran continues to expand its proxy war in the region and illegally arm the Houthis,” he told Arab News. “In addition, as a result of this development, the logistical, tactical, intelligence and military cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia will more likely increase, which would pave the way to more effectively counter Iran regime and its militias.”
The war has killed more than 10,000 people, crippled Yemen’s economy and left more than 22 million of the country’s 25 million people dependent on aid handouts, including 11.3 million who are in acute need, the UN says.
The Arab coalition, armed and backed by the West, joined the conflict in March 2015 after the Houthis pushed toward Aden, forcing the internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia.


Green light for crown prince-led Saudi privatization program

Updated 25 April 2018
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Green light for crown prince-led Saudi privatization program

  • The Privatization Program is one of 12 key elements of the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
  • The program is aimed at increasing job opportunities for Saudi nationals

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs on Tuesday approved the Privatization Program that is one of 12 key elements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

The program is aimed at increasing job opportunities for Saudi nationals, attracting the latest technologies and innovations, and supporting economic development.

It encourages both local and foreign investment in order to enhance the role of the private sector, with government entities adopting a regulatory and supervisory role. The aim is to increase the private sector’s contribution to GDP from 40 percent to 65 percent by 2030. 

The program will aim to reach its objectives through encouraging the private sector to invest in establishing new schools, universities and health centers, while the government pursues its organizational and supervisory role in health and education.

The privatization program aims to benefit from previous success stories, with the private sector’s collaboration in the development of infrastructure, and its involvement on a large scale in sectors such as energy, water, transport, telecommunications, petrochemicals and finance.

The program sets out a series of objectives in three areas: Developing a general legal framework for policies related to privatization; establishing organizational foundations and dedicated institutions to execute the policies; and setting a timescale for their delivery. 

The Council of Economic and Development Affairs is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.