“Congress must help prevent backsliding by Saudi Arabia,” said one activist, “by passing the Yemen War Powers Resolution and blocking U.S. military support for any renewed hostilities.”
More than five dozen advocacy groups on Wednesday pressured Congress to cut off U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war and blockade on Yemen, highlighting that it “has helped cause the deaths of nearly half a million people and pushed millions more to the edge of starvation.”
The groups’ letter to Congress—led by Churches for Middle East Peace, Demand Progress, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), MoveOn, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation—comes in the midst of a two-month truce.
The signatories are calling on lawmakers to co-sponsor a forthcoming War Powers Resolution from Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), declaring that “Congress must reassert its Article I war powers, terminate U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war and blockade, and do everything it can to support the Yemen truce.”
Hassan El-Tayyab, legislative director for Middle East policy at FCNL, said in a statement Wednesday that “the recently announced nationwide truce between Yemen’s warring parties offers hope that an end to the seven-year conflict might finally be possible.”
“Congress must help prevent backsliding by Saudi Arabia, which has driven so much of the violence through indiscriminate airstrikes and crippling blockade, by passing the Yemen War Powers Resolution and blocking U.S. military support for any renewed hostilities,” he added. “Congressional pressure is critical right now to keep the warring parties at the bargaining table and off the battlefield.”
JVP Action was proud to join 60+ national orgs today in calling on Congress to end all US support for the war in Yemen through a War Powers Resolution. After eight years of war and humanitarian suffering, #YemenCantWait any longer. https://t.co/A44C61IV5y
— Jewish Voice for Peace Action (@JvpAction) April 20, 2022
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began waging war on Yemen when then-U.S. President Barack Obama was in office and continued to do so throughout former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
When President Joe Biden took office, “he committed to ending U.S. support for the Saudi-UAE-led coalition’s brutal war on Yemen,” noted Demand Progress foreign policy campaigner Cavan Kharrazian. “Unfortunately, the U.S. continues to provide critical support for the coalition’s war effort and blockade, which has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”
As the letter lays out:
In February 2021, President Biden announced an end to U.S. participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. Yet the United States continues to provide spare parts, maintenance, and logistical support for Saudi warplanes. The administration also never defined what “offensive” and “defensive” support constituted, and it has since approved over a billion dollars in arms sales, including new attack helicopters and air-to-air missiles. This support sends a message of impunity to the Saudi-led coalition for its bombardment and siege of Yemen.
“With continued U.S. military support, Saudi Arabia escalated its campaign of collective punishment on the people of Yemen in recent months, making the start of 2022 one of the deadliest time periods of the war,” the letter points out. “Earlier this year, Saudi airstrikes targeting a migrant detention facility and vital communications infrastructure killed at least 90 civilians, wounded over 200, and triggered a nationwide internet blackout.”
The truce has had a positive impact on the Yemeni humanitarian crisis, but it coincides with Russia’s war on Ukraine, which is exacerbating food insecurity in various countries including Yemen, where millions of people rely on global aid for survival.
“While we condemn Houthi violations,” the letter says, “after seven years of direct and indirect involvement in the Yemen war, the United States must cease supplying weapons, spare parts, maintenance services, and logistical support to Saudi Arabia to ensure the temporary truce is adhered to and hopefully, extended into a lasting peace agreement.”
Representatives for groups that signed on to the letter expressed disappointment with the current administration.
“Although President Biden initially seemed to signal that he would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen, it has become clear that his administration is not committed to constraining Saudi aggression,” said Annelle Sheline, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “If it were, we should have observed Saudi airstrikes on Yemen decline under Biden, and instead they have risen.”
“U.S. support for the Saudi war continues despite a growing recognition that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is deeply dysfunctional and fails to serve U.S. interests,” she added. “For this reason, it is imperative that Congress pass a War Powers Resolution, to remind the executive branch of Congress’ constitutional authority and role as a voice for the American people.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), also emphasized the responsibility of Congress, noting that “from Obama to Trump to Biden,” successive administrations “have skirted our constitution to pursue the war in Yemen without seeking congressional approval.”
“This ill-considered venture has led not only to devastating consequences for Yemen’s people, but endangered our military forces and our nation, making us legitimate targets for counterattack,” she said. “It’s time to put an end to short-sighted, reckless miscalculations on the decision to go to war: We need to reaffirm this decision must always rest in the hands of the people’s Congress by passing the Yemen War Powers Resolution.”