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tv   U.S. Senate Sen. Reed on Yemen  CSPAN  March 21, 2018 10:09am-10:22am EDT

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action ourselves. we have done that to the ndaa. we have done that to various state department authorizations. so weer have acted upon it. there are concerns about what's happening there. legislation will be introduced to try to deal with this and then the way we deal with complicated issues. no one is shying away from the debate. we just hope to table list and move it back and deal with it in the orderly, appropriate way. >> mr. president, i rise today to express my concern about the continued deterioration of the situation in yemen and to share my views on the resolution that is currently before us. the military conflict in yemen has gone on for too long and it has affected tens off millions f civilians who face displacement, famine and widespread cholera outbreak. according to the united nations, more than 15,000 yemenis have been killed or injured since the war began in march of 2015. the humidity and situation there
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has been described as the worst in the world with more than two-thirds of yemen, approximate 29 million people, facing severe food shortages. an outbreak of cholera has already affected at least 1 million people, marking the worst such outbreak in decades. continued instability also benefits are adversaries. while we have sought to maintain pressure on al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula, or aqap, and i says, the lack of a functioning government or state security apparatus, it inhibits her ability to go after these groups. additionally it is clear that iran has taken event of the current situation to spread its malign influence and provide legal support to the houthis, thereby further undermining regional stability. and security. unfortunately, we've yet you or any from the administration as to how they would propose, use use diplomaticp leadership to
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help bring aboutem an end to the conflict in yemen. we still do not have an ambassador to saudi arabia, and occasional visit by whiteci houe officials are not a replacement for the sustained diplomatic efforts by experts in the foreign service. i encouraged though by the appointment of the new united nations special envoy to yemen, martin griffith, in hopes the united states kaposi to support his efforts wherever possible. while the primary conflict in yemen is between an arranged back houthi insurgency and a saudi led coalition, the united states is involved. as stated inen a letter sent by secretary mattis to congressional leadership this week, his words come since 2015 the united states has provided limited support to saudi led coalition military operations to restore the u.n. recognize government in yemen and preserve saudi territorial integrity from houthi allied forces in yemen. moreover,, , according to the
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secretary, u.s. forces are not authorized to use force against the houthis to support the saudi led coalition with intelligence sharing, military advice and logistical support, including and to air refueling. last week the committed jew central command general votel testify before the armed services committee that our support to the saudi led coalition is primarily defensive. in nature and focus on the ring support a ballistic missile threats of saudi arabia that originates in yemen. maritime threats to international shipping in the red sea, the defense of saudi arabia southern border and counterterrorism. however, general votel challenge that when united states provides air refueling to coalition aircraft, we do not know where those aircraft the bingo. therefore they could be going to conduct offensive strikes against houthi targets which may result in civilian casualties
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which is a major concern for me. even more troubling, if these aircraft went to conduct strikes against targets outside of yemen the u.s. would be complicit or in a much more dangerous and provocative activities. i have significant concerns about persistent reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. caused by the saudi led coalition in yemen. far too many of the strikes by the coalition had killed or injured civilians and resulted in the destruction of infrastructure needed to provide basic services to the population. thereby exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. it is also clear that more must be done by both the coalition and the houthis to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into and throughout yemen. the united nations and humanitarian organizations continue to express concern about their ability to access c and airports, and difficulties in distributing aid to vulnerable populations once it
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is inside the country. it is. important that shipments into human the subject to inspection by the u.n. verification and inspection mechanism to help prevent the transit of illicit materials in violation of the u.s. arms embargo, but all parties to the conflict, all parties to the conflict in yemen, have responsibility including under international humanitarian law to allow access to aid by those in need. so we are faced with a very difficult set of issues, and i certainly commend my colleagues, for bringing this issue to the floor. the saudi-led coalition clearly must do more to end this war and let's prosecute this war in a way that limits the civilian crises. on the other hand, saudi arabia and the united arab emirates, or the uae, remain important partners to the united states and we share many common
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interest in the region, including the fight against al-qaeda, isis, and other violent extremist groups. the resolution for us would establish a blanket prohibition on all assistance to the saudi-led coalition, except for the purposes of covering al-qaeda and associated forces. what i understand the arguments to this approach i believe it would prevent it from exerting influence to limit and hopefully and the conflict. indeed, they may even cause harm at both sites potential act more violently. we can and should engage if there is a possibility that we can help minimizeda collateral damage by providing the coalition with training on best practices. general votel testified last week that u.s. assistance has contributed to improve it by the coalition on these issues. specifically, the department of defense has told us that engagement by u.s. military person has resulted in the production of a no strike list.
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that is a process which actually puts targets off-limits and ensures that pilots and others understand those targets. they also caused a succession or an ending of the use of -- by saudi forces. and the formation of the body to investigate noncombatant casualties. these are positive steps but it is clear that much more must be done to maximize impact of the war on yemeni civilians. i support our continued engagement for that purpose. both saudi arabia and the uae face a significant threat from houthi rebels armed with ballistic missiles. apparently with assistance of the iranians. there have reportedly been dozens of such attacks against saudi arabia since the spring of 2015, including against civilian targets like the international airport in riyadh which was
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attacked this december. i strongly support the right of our partners to defend themselves from these threats and believe i continued sharing of use intelligence for defensive purposes is appropriate, especially in light of the fact that tens of thousands of your civilians, military, and diplomatic personnel also face these threats while living and working in the region around riyadh and throughout saudi arabia. i also have concerns that ending all support to the saudi-led coalition may cause the conflict to escalate. a s secretary mattis wrote to congressional leadership this past week, restrictions on a limited u.s. military support could increase civilian casualties come jeopardize cooperation with our partners on counterterrorism, and reduce our influence of the saudi, all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis. secretary mattis also expressed concern that withdrawal of our support wouldde embolden iran to
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increase its support to the houthis, enabling for the ballistic missile attacks and strikes on saudi arabia and threatening vital shipping lanes of the red sea, thereby raising the risk of a regional conflict. therefore, i believe the support by the u.s. military and the saudi-led coalition in yemen should not be absolutely prohibited but should be explicitly limited to the following objectives. first, enabling counterterrorism opoperations against al-qaeda and isis. second, defending the territorial integrity of saudi arabia and the uae, including against ballistic missile strikes. three, reserving freedom of navigation of the maritime environment around yemen, and fourth, training and professionalism of their armed forces with a primary focus on adherence to the law of armed conflict and prevention of civilian casualties. our support to the saudi-led coalition needs to be considered in a thoughtful and deliberate
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manner. from a policy perspective we should d distinguish between assistance that it provide for defensive or noncombat purposes, and that which could be used to enable offense of military operations in a yemeni civil war. and let me beem clear. i am not in favor of giving the saudi-led coalition a blank check. in fact, i believe that we should do longer provide air refueling assistance in less it is usedcr to enable aircraft conducting counterterrorism missions pursuant to p the 2001 authorization of use for military force, or carry specific identified threats to saudi territorial integrity. indeed, use of our military assets to support floodlit efforts of other nations to conduct operations outside this narrow scope would raisese very serious legal questions. given itsom comprehensive approh i do not believe this is the
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appropriate vehicle for these issues to receive the careful and deliberate consideration theyre do. i understand the foreign relations committee may soon take up this issue and i urge them to do that. i look for to engage in further in those discussions when presented the opportunity. the administration must make clear to both the saudi-led coalition and the houthis is no military solution to this conflict, and the time has come to reach a negotiated settlement. congress also has an important role in setting a policy framework for the use of u.s. armed forces overseas and ensuring u.s. military capabilities are only use to authorize purposes. at thee same time we should not take action that would unduly restrict our engagement for legitimate purposes and in sog doing undermine our ability to help bring about an end to the conference in yemen, east civilian suffering and defend the character and integrity of
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partners. with that, mr. , mr. president,i would yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from connecticut. >> i ask unanimous consent that senator cohen, cardin, lincoln and is and i directed a to five minutes each and then send it to recognized for up to 15 minutes prior to the vote. >> is there objection? no objection. >> thank you. thank you v ery much, mr. president. mr. president, i just back from a a trip to atr major transatlantc conference in europe, and while the europeans have spent a lot of time over the course of the last 12 months handwringing about whethermi the united stats is committed to europe, committed to nader, committed to our common defense, my feeling up on, coming to brussels for this particular conference is that there kind of over the handwringing. they are n just make plans to me on without us. they are making plans to protect themselves without

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