WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement ahead of Thursday’s vote on S.J. Res. 42, a joint resolution of disapproval on three sales of precision-guided munitions and related equipment to the Government of Saudi Arabia:
“Saudi Arabia is a critical partner of the United States and I support policies and programs that enable cooperation between our governments on counterterrorism and countering Iran’s nefarious activities.
“The ongoing conflict in Yemen poses serious risks to Saudi Arabia’s legitimate defensive needs and over the course of this conflict the United States has supported the Saudi-led Coalition in its efforts to restore the internationally-recognized Government of Yemen and implement the conditions in UN Security Council Resolution 2216. I am deeply concerned that Houthi rebels have launched SCUD missiles into Saudi Arabia, refuse to withdraw from Saudi territory, disregard the requirements of Resolution 2216, and reject the efforts to the UN Special Envoy to Yemen to facilitate a negotiated settlement that can end the conflict and save lives. I am equally concerned that today we are no closer to a political process to end the conflict while there is broad consensus that there is no possibility of a decisive military victory by any stakeholder to the conflict. Meanwhile, innocent Yemeni civilians are suffering at unprecedented levels – the humanitarian crisis is catastrophic, millions of Yemenis are on the brink of famine, and now hundreds of thousands are at risk from a cholera outbreak.
“Given this deplorable context, I am disappointed that we have yet to learn of the Administration’s strategy to support a political process or any statement from the Administration that more military action in Yemen is counterproductive, will disproportionally affect civilians, and will likely generate conditions for expanded activities by Al Qaeda and Iran, as well as Russian influence. Instead, this Administration’s approach appears to be more weapons sales. The Administration’s decision to proceed with the sale of precision-guided munitions, absent leadership to push all parties toward a political process for a negotiated settlement, including Saudi Arabia, sends the absolutely wrong signal to our partners and our adversaries. I will therefore vote for the resolution of disapproval.
“I expect that going forward, the Administration will pair its consultations with Congress on proposed weapons sales to members of the Saudi-led Coalition with a public articulation of U.S. policy to end this conflict through a negotiated, political settlement. Additionally, such consultations should include appropriately funded U.S. commitments to assist in alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and assurances that it is engaging with members of the Coalition on use of force consistent with the law of armed conflict and international humanitarian law.”