Mattis, Pompeo urge senators to stand down in Yemen fight

Mattis, Pompeo urge senators to stand down in Yemen fight
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Two top Cabinet officials privately urged senators on Wednesday to quash a resolution that would end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisNew Defense chief: Our 'priorities remain unchanged' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need Congress to approve Iran strikes in interview with The Hill | New sanctions hit Iran's supreme leader | Schumer seeks to delay defense bill amid Iran tensions | Esper's first day as acting Pentagon chief Pompeo meets with Saudi crown prince amid tensions with Iran Poll: 24 percent of voters want military action against Iran MORE are briefing senators behind closed doors ahead of an initial vote as early as Wednesday that would force President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE’s hand on the issue.

Mattis, in prepared remarks released by the Pentagon, warned senators that moving forward with the resolution would undercut the administration’s ability to improve Saudi Arabia’s behavior through negotiations.

“I know all too well the difficulty in reconciling human aspirations with war's grim reality; but I also recognize that we cannot limit civilian casualties or advance the peace effort commencing early next month in Sweden by disengaging,” Mattis said, according to prepared remarks.

“Pulling back our limited U.S. military support, our weapons sales to our partners, and our protection of the Saudi and Emirati populations would be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations,” he continued.

Pompeo, according to prepared remarks, warned that if the United States withdrew support for the Saudi government more civilians would die.

Pompeo told lawmakers that it would “do immense damage to U.S. national security interests and those of our Middle Eastern allies and partners.”

“I know the conflict in Yemen is ugly. We are engaged in diplomacy all around the world to make it less so — and have actually made it less ugly. But it’s important to remain involved. Talks are scheduled to happen soon,” he said.

The Senate resolution comes as Congress is searching for ways to respond to the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

The resolution would require Trump to withdraw any troops in "or affecting" Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

In addition to Khashoggi’s killing, senators have shown growing concerns about whether Saudi Arabia is adequately preventing civilian deaths in Yemen and would undercut soon-to-begin negotiations.