The Yemeni American News
US Congress had never used its powers to curb US military actions overseas ordered by a president. On Thursday, it did so for the first time for Yemen.
Fifty-six out of 100 Senators voted to stop US military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Although the bill is not likely to become law anytime soon, it signals a strong message that the political establishment is dissatisfied with the war, which has dragged for more than three years.
The humanitarian disaster in the war-torn country has become a burden on US politicians, amid an outcry from rights groups. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has especially increased the scrutiny on US-Saudi relations.
After the murder of Khashoggi, many of Riyadh’s opponents wanted the outcry to extend to Yemen, where thousands of people – not just one person – have been killed.
Senator Bernie Sanders one of the main backers of the bill criticized the Saudi government and celebrated the outcome of the vote.
“It is time for the United States Congress to tell the despotic government of Saudi Arabia that we do not intend to follow their lead in their military adventurism,” he said.
“Their intervention in the civil war in Yemen is the cause of the humanitarian disaster.”
Sanders called the vote a “historic moment”.
The bill will not become law before the end of the year, as it needs to pass in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which has already passed a motion to block it.
Dingell calls for end to Yemeni suffering
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat, has called on Congress to stop the war.
“The ongoing war in Yemen has caused endless suffering and is a serious humanitarian crisis,” she said in a statement.
Dingell added that Yemeni American families in Dearborn are telling her about the horrific conditions in their home country.
“People are starving, homes have been bombed, diseases – including a cholera epidemic – are rampant, and too many have been lost to a reckless Saudi-led aerial bombing campaign. Congress has a moral responsibility to end the war in Yemen,” she said.
The Senate bill is seen as a rebuke to President Trump, who has decided to stick by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the murder of Khashoggi and growing anger over Yemen.
However, the Trump administration itself has sent mixed signals about Yemen, at times suggesting that it wants the war to end.
The American role
“Not only was the war in Yemen never authorized by the elected representatives of the American people – it is a humanitarian disaster. An estimated 85,000 children have already died of malnutrition. And in a country of 28 million, nearly half are facing famine,” Senator Dick Durbin said on Twitter on Thursday.
While Yemen’s warring sides start formal UN-backed negotiations, what role can the Americans play?
Bassem al-Shaabi, head of the Center for Strategic Directions in Aden, said Washington is appearing with two faces – urging an end to the war, while at the same time backing its allies that are involved in the war.
He said the key to ending the conflict is for Yemenis to push forward for a political solution, without external interference. Shaabi said foreign players must leave Yemen, compensate its people for the damages they caused and pay for reconstruction.
“Stopping the war is a pressing need for Yemenis because the conflict only benefits international and regional powers outside Yemen,” he told the Yemeni American News.
However, journalist Radwan Hamdani says ending the conflict is not possible without a solution to the political and security crisis that caused it.
Hamadani said lasting peace cannot be achieved if the Houthis do not withdraw their military forces from major cities and surrender their heavy weapons, as stipulated by international agreements.
As for the American role, Hamadani said: “You cannot count on any position from the current administration because it deals with issues from a business perspective that would ensure the continuous operation of US weapon factories and arrival of Saudi money and investments.”