Senate Passes Bill Aimed to End Unconstitutional Yemen War
By: Ivey Noojin, Arab America Contributing Writer
Congress is taking a stand against Saudi Arabia in a direct contradiction to a plethora of President Trump’s statements in regards to the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
In October of this year, many citizens of the United States began to realize the measures that the government of Saudi Arabia would take in order to silence opposition. The American people are constantly questioning our government, especially President Trump about his financial relationship with the Saudi government. Members of Congress felt this sentiment among their constituents and decided to propose a bill that removes U.S. funding from Saudi involvement in the Yemeni war.
At the end of November, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced a bill in the Senate that would end U.S. supply of arms to Saudi Arabia for the conflict in Yemen. Last Wednesday, 63 senators voted yes, with 37 against the proposal.
“This is the first time in history in the United States that the U.S. Senate has voted to advance a resolution withdrawing the United States Armed Forces from an unauthorized and unconstitutional war,” Sanders said in an email to his subscribers.
However, President Trump is threatening to veto it once it reaches his desk. He believes that this bill would damage relations with Saudi Arabia, hurt U.S. influence in the region and put civilians at risk. He sent out a lobbying team after the bill reached the floor to try to persuade senators from supporting this proposal. However, this method clearly did not work.
The civil war in Yemen has gained more international attention, especially in the United States, after the death of Jamal Khashoggi and a viral picture of a starving girl. The only way to prevent the president from vetoing the bill is if there is overwhelming support in the populous. This requires a general understanding of the Yemeni conflict.
Photo Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Yemen is the Gulf’s poorest nation. So when unrest stirred up due to the Arab Spring in 2011, a humanitarian crisis was quick to follow. This revolution forced the authoritarian leader of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. to give power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. This decision split the citizens of the country into two sections: those who supported Saleh and those who wanted Hadi as ruler.
During the beginning of his presidency, Hadi faced several crises and was unable to manage the entire nation. A Shia group called the Houthis took advantage and forced control of the northern region. Originally, they wanted to reinstate Saleh to power but eventually, he got killed in December 2017. Since the northern and southern regions were once different countries, it was easy to pick apart the different geographical parts of Yemen. These attacks forced Hadi to flee in 2015.
Al-Qaeda and ISIS began to carry out deadly attacks in the south, which prompted U.S. involvement. However, the United States was not the main influence in the crisis: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were.
Saudi Arabia got involved in the war in 2015 after Hadi fled to Riyadh. They wanted to help restore him to power and publicly claimed that Iran was supporting the Houthis insurgence.
However, the most devastating was in November 2017 after the Houthis launched several missiles toward Riyadh. In response, Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade around Yemen. The country stated it wanted to stop Iran from smuggling weapons to the Houthis. However, it actually cut off any medical aid and food from outside countries to the Yemeni people. The United Nations predicted this decision would lead to the largest global famine in decades. This exactly what happened.
This “proxy war” for tensions with the Middle East has devastated the region. Most of the over 10,000 people killed in the conflict were due to Saudi-led airstrikes. Only half of the health facilities in Yemen are working, which means that more and more wounded are dying. Other alarming statistics include:
- 3 million have fled their homes
- 2 million have been displaced
- 85,000 children starved to death
- 10,000 cholera cases each week
However, it was not until recently that the U.S. has come close to ending its support of the Saudi destruction in Yemen.
Change in U.S. Response
in March of this year, Congress tried to pass a bill that would prevent this country from providing Saudi Arabia with the weapons it uses to kill citizens of Yemen. It ended in a 55-44 vote against the proposal.
However, this lack of support changed once the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi became public in October. The average citizen of the United States started hearing about Saudi aggression, instead of Saudi improvements. Khashoggi’s death has also been in the news for months, festering a growing frustration with the supposed ally of the United States. This frustration increased even more after a photo went viral of a Yemeni girl with protruding ribs from starvation.
A month later, this led to three congressmen presenting a bill that directly addressed this anger from their constituents. It finally passed.
“This is the time to tell Saudi Arabia, and indeed the rest of the world, that we will no longer continue to be a partner to the horrific crisis in Yemen,” Sanders said in an email.
This could be a very important step in helping all the starving children in Yemen, instead of worsening their condition.