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

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.

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

Updated 28 min 41 sec ago

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

  • Thousands of photos on display
  • Ties ‘rooted’ in history, says Kingdom’s ambassador

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari and Lebanon’s Minister of Information Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah on Monday inaugurated a photography exhibition celebrating 90 years of bilateral relations.

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation provided the embassy in Lebanon with historical documents and photos for the exhibition, which was launched on World Photography Day. Some of the material dates back more than 90 years.

Bukhari said the exhibition’s content proved that the countries’ relations were rooted in history and recalled the words of King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman, who said: “Lebanon is part of us. I protect its independence myself and will not allow anything to harm it.”

Jarrah, who was representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “We need this Arab embrace in light of the attacks targeting the Arab region and we still need the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s stability, because Lebanon is truly the center from which Arabism originated.”

The exhibition starts with a document appointing Mohammed Eid Al-Rawaf as the Kingdom’s consul in Syria and Lebanon. It was signed by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud in 1930 and states that the consul’s residence is in Damascus and that his mission is to “promote Saudi merchants, care for their affairs and assist them with their legal and commercial interests.”

Black and white pictures summarize milestones in the development of bilateral relations, while others depict key visits and meetings between leaders and dignitaries.

“The exhibition demanded great efforts because the pieces were not found at one single location,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Arab News. “Circulating this activity in the Kingdom’s embassies in numerous countries is a great step and has pushed the Lebanese Ministry of Information to benefit from this archive. The Lebanese people remember the important positions the Kingdom has taken over the year to support their independence and sovereignty and in hard times.”

Lebanon, particularly Beirut, is a hit with Saudi travelers although the Kingdom had been advising citizens since 2011 to avoid the country, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria. 

But the easing of restrictions since February has led to a surge in Saudis heading to Lebanon.

Riyadh earlier this year released $1 billion in funding and pledged to boost Lebanon’s struggling economy. Another sign of warming ties was an anniversary event marking the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father that featured Saudi Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Aloula as a keynote speaker.

“The exhibition highlights the unique model of Lebanese-Arab relations that should be taught in diplomatic institutes, starting with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” former minister Marwan Hamadeh told Arab News. “Over the course of 90 years, we have had brotherly ties and political support for independence, freedom, growth, economy and culture and then the Taif Accord (which ended the Lebanese Civil War). Even after that, when Lebanon engaged in military adventures, the Kingdom was there to help with reconstruction and we are proud of these relations.”

Highlights include a recording of King Faisal telling President Charles Helou about the need to strengthen “brotherhood in the face of the aggression targeting our countries without respecting the sanctity of holy sites and international, human and moral norms to extend its influence not only in the region but across the world.”

There are also photos from a recent meeting that brought together King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese officials. 

An old broadcast recording can be heard saying that the “tragedy of the Lebanese civil war can only be ended by affirming the Lebanese legitimacy and preserving its independence and territorial integrity.”

The exhibition is on at Beit Beirut, which is located on what used to be the frontline that divided the city during the civil war.