Having just observed the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the United States Senate is currently considering S. 316, a bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) to repeal the anachronistic Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, which date to 1991 and 2002. This action is long overdue, and part of a recent effort by Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority over matters of war and peace. The Biden Administration supports the measure, which is significant as Joe Biden, as a US Senator, voted for the 2002 AUMF, while he opposed the 1991 measure.
The Senate, and House of Representatives, should also soon take up legislation to end US participation in a current war, the tragedy in Yemen. March 25 will mark eight years since Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners including the United Arab Emirates began bombing Yemen with US military support. With the recent welcome deal, brokered by China, for Saudi Arabia and Iran to re-establish diplomatic ties, peace may be on the verge of breaking out in Yemen, but Congress still has work to do. Iran has agreed to stop arming the rebel Houthis in Yemen; momentum to end the suffering of the Yemeni people, who have endured the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe for eight long years, must be capitalized upon.
Next month, the Senate will consider a bipartisan privileged resolution instructing the Secretary of State to prepare a report on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under section 502(B) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. The bill, sponsored by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), could result in cutting off all US military assistance to the Saudis. Even if that isn’t achieved, it will still put political pressure on the Biden Administration to reassess its relationship with the US’s biggest weapons purchaser.
Even more significant is the imminent re-introduction of a Congressional War Powers Resolution to end all US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s military actions in Yemen. If passed, as it was in 2019 (before President Trump vetoed it), Congress could order the president to end U.S. participation in the catastrophic conflict, which the U.S. has enabled for eight years. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored last year’s bipartisan bill, which was cosponsored by over 130 members of Congress.
Despite the current pause in bombings in Yemen since April 2022, there is nothing to prevent Saudi Arabia from resuming airstrikes, nor to permanently end the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen. The U.S. has enabled Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to subject the Yemeni people to over 25,000 air raids. Activists describe the Yemen War Powers Resolution as the most effective way for Congress to stop enabling the war on Yemen, which includes a devastating Saudi blockade.
Starvation and disease are a daily presence in Yemen; millions of children are malnourished and two-thirds of the country is in need of humanitarian aid. Saudi Arabia’s blockade drives the crisis. For example, almost no containerized goods have been able to enter Yemen’s principal port of Hodeida since 2017, depriving the Yemeni people of needed medical supplies and other essential goods.
To help draw attention to the need to end the catastrophe in Yemen, this Saturday, March 25 at 12 Noon ET, Peace Action, Action Corps, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Yemeni-American groups, and others from the US and UK will host an online rally to build momentum to end our countries’ military involvement in the war in Yemen. Confirmed US speakers include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Dr. Shireen Al-Adeimi, Dr. Aisha Jumaan, and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, among others. Jeremy Corbyn, member of the British parliament and former Labour Party leader, will also speak. Amaani Yehya, Yemen’s first female rapper, will perform.
While finally ending the war in Yemen is an urgent priority, there is also a broader need for the US to reset its foreign policy to focus on democracy and human rights, including ending blank check support for Israel in its perpetual occupation of Palestinian territory, and to invest in smart diplomacy as China did in helping broker the Iran-Saudi agreement. The people of Yemen can’t wait, and Americans and people all around the world would benefit from a smarter foreign policy based on widely held American values.