FILE - This April 10, 2019, file photo shows a view of the site of an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen. President Donald Trump on Tuesday vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
A view of the site of an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana'a, Yemen © AP

Donald Trump has vetoed a bill demanding an end to US involvement in Yemen’s civil war, intensifying a stand-off with Congress over his administration’s staunch support for Saudi Arabia. 

In a letter to senators, Mr Trump branded the bill, which called for an end to US military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities”. 

The use of the second presidential veto of Mr Trump’s presidency illustrates the continuing division between lawmakers and the White House over America’s diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

Mr Trump said the bill was “unnecessary” because, apart from counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda and Isis, the US was “not engaged in hostilities affecting Yemen”.

“There are no United States military personnel in Yemen commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in hostilities in or affecting Yemen,” he wrote. 

Mr Trump acknowledged, however, that since 2015 the US had provided “limited support” to the Saudi-led coalition, including “intelligence sharing, logistics support, and, until recently, in-flight refuelling of non-United States aircraft”.

He said the department of defence could provide logistics support to foreign countries when ordered to by the president as the commander-in-chief, and that lawmakers should not seek to “interfere” with his role as head of the armed forces. 

Mr Trump added that the civil war in Yemen gave Iran-backed Houthis an opportunity to “cause trouble for the United States and for our ally, Saudi Arabia”.

Saudi Arabia is facing mounting pressure over the fighting in Yemen, where it is leading a coalition locked in a conflict with rebels that has claimed thousands of lives and created a humanitarian crisis.

Lawmakers, including several prominent Republicans, have expressed unhappiness over the Trump administration’s attempts to distance Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, from the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

US senator Bernie Sanders, who introduced the bill, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” that Mr Trump had rejected the legislation, and vowed to continue working to end “unconstitutional wars”.

Mr Trump has said “we may never know all of the facts” surrounding Khashoggi’s death, and has reiterated his staunch support for Saudi Arabia as a big oil exporter and arms buyer.

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