Middle East

US lawmakers’ concern on Saudi Arabia prompts Pompeo, Mattis briefing


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will brief the US Senate on Wednesday on the latest developments related to Saudi Arabia, Senator John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, told reporters on Monday.

Many US lawmakers, including some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, have rejected Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia. They have called for a strong US response to the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the war in Yemen, which has created one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian disasters.

Trump vowed last week to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia and said it was not clear whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plan to kill Khashoggi last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The president cast doubt on the CIA assessment that the prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing, telling reporters the agency had not formed a definitive conclusion.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier this month he wanted Pompeo, Mattis and CIA Director Gina Haspel to come to the Capitol for a classified Senate briefing.

A Senate aide said Haspel is not scheduled to be involved in Wednesday’s briefing, which will take place at 11 a.m. EST. A House of Representatives aide said no similar briefing had been scheduled in that chamber.

Cornyn also said he thought the Senate would vote on a Yemen resolution introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders seeking to pull back any US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Asked if the measure, which failed earlier this year, stood a chance of passage now, Cornyn said he did not want to “give Iran a pass.”

Gulf Arab states have been battling since 2015 to restore a government in Yemen driven out by the Houthis, Shi’ite Muslim fighters that Yemen’s neighbors view as agents of Iran.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien.

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