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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The U.N. calls it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but it may be the death of a single U.S. resident that prompts a U.S. response.


Saudi Arabia has been propping up the government of neighboring Yemen in a civil war with Iranian-backed rebels. Its involvement has included airstrikes on civilians and a blockade that’s left millions without food and water. Indiana Senator Todd Young has been calling on the administration for months to pressure the Saudis to halt human rights violations in Yemen. Bipartisan anger over the death of Jamal Khashoggi has some in Congress calling for more drastic action than even Young has proposed.


Young says some members of Congress want Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to remove Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as his heir apparent. Young’s not endorsing that step yet, and notes the U.S. can’t force the king’s hand — it can only exert pressure.


But Young says the U.S. should impose sanctions under two federal laws requiring punishment of individual human rights violators, and should join Germany in suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.


Young authored a provision in this year’s defense spending bill which would halt U.S. refueling of Saudi warplanes unless the State Department certifies the Saudis are meeting human rights standards. The department issued that certification last month. Young is one of seven senators who have demanded a follow-up explanation of how to reconcile that finding with a sharp increase in civilian deaths in Saudi airstrikes. A response is due by next week.

But Young says the backlash against Saudi agents’ killing of Khashoggi, an Indiana State graduate, makes it “conceivable” the U.S. could cut off support of any kind for the intervention in Yemen, something he says goes beyond what he’d prefer.

Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)