The U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to overturn President Donald Trump's veto of legislation that would have ended U.S. military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, but lawmakers promised to keep a close watch on the administration's ties with the kingdom. While the 53-45 vote to override fell well short of the required two-thirds, passage of the resolution in April was an unprecedented rebuke of Trump's foreign policy and a milestone for Congress, which invoked never-before-used powers in an effort to halt foreign military activity.
The U.S. is by far the largest supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and its support for the coalition has been crucial to the war in Yemen. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, transferring military equipment to third parties breaks the terms of the Saudi-led coalition's arms deal with the U.S. The Pentagon said continued support of the coalition is in the U.S.' interest because it helps American allies push back against Iranian aggression in the region.
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end American involvement in the Yemen war, rebuffing the Trump administration's support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia as Congress for the first time invoked the War Powers Resolution to try and stop a foreign conflict. The push to end American involvement in the war gained strength in Congress last year after Saudi agents killed Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who had lived in the U.S. and written critically about the kingdom. Lawmakers criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia's role strongly enough and urged new penalties against the American ally. The administration has forged close ties with the Saudis as it seeks to further isolate Iran.
Despite the veto remaining intact, some lawmakers pledged continued scrutiny of U.S.-Saudi ties. The bilateral ties have become increasingly complicated over issues including the murder of Khashoggi. Trump nominated retired Gen. John Abizaid as the new U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Abizaid arrived in Riyadh on Thursday, filling a position vacant since Trump took office more than two years ago. Washington has not had an ambassador in Riyadh since January 2017.
Riyadh has worked to cultivate warm relations with Trump after having rocky moments with former President Barack Obama. The kingdom welcomed Trump for his first overseas trip as president. Trump's administration, particularly his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has sought a close relationship with King Salman's son, Mohammed bin Salman, the country's crown prince and next in line to the throne.
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