Yemen has been facing the horrors of a Saudi-led war for the last three years. The United States has been backing the Saudi Arabian effort for the entirety of the war, as providing direct material support not only to the Saudi government but also in ground level operations in Yemen. The Saudi military is backing the Yemen Hadi government, partly as a proxy war against Iran, which is backing the Houthi rebels. In a demonstration of bi-partisan resistance to the war two weeks ago, Senate Joint Resolution 54, introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Mike Lee (R-UT), would end the United States’ direct involvement in the war. The War Powers Resolution of 1973, which, as Vox notes, “states that if US troops are involved in ‘hostilities’ abroad ‘without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.’” Through this step, the Senate has made a successful start to preventing further U.S. involvement in the war.
Essentially, if such a resolution were to pass the House, the United States Congress would have confirmed united disapproval of U.S. involvement, which would force the President’s hand to abide by the War Powers Act. It is impressive that the resolution passed, considering several factors: namely opposition to the War Powers Act by the Republicans who supported it and Saudi lobbying, especially considering that the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship goes back to 1945.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the Republicans who voted for the resolution, explained that he is opposed to the War Powers Act, but upset with the Trump administration: “I don’t agree with what [Lee and Sanders] are doing. I don’t think the War Powers Act is one, constitutional, [and] two, the aid we provide to Saudi Arabia and Yemen would require an authorization to use military force. Having said that, the way the administration has handled the Saudi Arabia [issue] is just not acceptable.” It seems that Trump’s handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has turned parts of his own party against him.
Saudi Arabia and affiliated PACs are also major campaign contributors, so it should come as no surprise that the Saudi government did not support this resolution. An investigative report found that a significant number of senators who voted against the resolution had received sizable donations from Saudi government aligned interest groups and PACs. It comes as a welcome surprise then, that this resolution survived a Senate vote.
This is an important step in the right direction, and on its face, it would seem to remove a major power from the war, but in reality, this does not nearly go far enough. Through an analysis of the war and the indirect support that the U.S. still has in the conflict, we can see that there is still a great deal of work to be done if the war in Yemen is to come to a close anytime soon. Considering the humanitarian atrocities that are occuring there every day, sooner is better than later.
Under Trump, the United States signed a contract with Saudi Arabia in 2017 that promised the supply of $350 billion dollars in arms and weaponry to the Saudi military over a 10 year period. Essentially, Saudi Arabia will pay each year, and every year the U.S. will send more weapons. The bombs that are being dropped in Yemen right now, including the one that killed 40 children on a school bus, bear the flag of the United States, despite technically not being dropped by the U.S. This weapons supply agreement is not addressed in the resolution, and as such, even if Congress used the War Powers act to end direct U.S. involvement in the war, it would not prevent the Trump administration from continuing to provide intelligence, weapons, and ammunition to the Saudi military. It is worth noting that Saudi lobbyists paid for 500 hotel rooms at a Trump hotel shorty after the 2016 election, a form of ‘subtle’ lobbying.
Under this new deal, United States-manufactured bombs will be dropped from U.S. planes and jets, but under the command of the Saudi military. As the number one buyer of weapons from the United States, it is clear why Saudi Arabia has the interest of U.S. contractors, such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and consequently, the administration and officials that those contractors lobby. In order to truly demonstrate opposition to the war, the U.S. must terminate this contract. We must recognize the importance of this milestone in the anti-war effort, but we must not lose sight of the fact that our goal requires just as fierce a grassroots push as ever. We must tell Congress to end the arms deal. Call your congressperson at: (202) 224-3121