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AOAV analysis of how a bill in the Senate could end U.S military engagement in Saudi war in Yemen

The United States is at odds with itself over the conflict in Yemen, not only in terms of its own use of airstrikes there, but in terms of its ongoing logistical support aiding intervention by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Even as President Trump called for the cessation of all hostilities and an end to the blockade that would “completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it,” back in December 2017, US Central Command was reporting that during the course of 2017, it had conducted “more than six times as many airstrikes as in 2016”.

In a draft UN report on children and armed conflict seen by Reuters in August 2017, the Saudi-led coalition was blamed for hundreds of child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen. In January 2018, a United Nations panel examined 10 airstrikes in 2017 that killed “157 people, and found that the targets included a migrant boat, a night market, five residential buildings, a motel, a vehicle and government forces”, according to Al Jazeera. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also found that more than 20 percent of the 5,144 people that died between March 2015 and August 30, 2017 were children.

Against this backdrop, and on the 28th February, three US Senators, Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy, and invoking the War Powers Resolution of 1973, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 54 (S. J. RES. 54) calling for the, “the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress”. A reaction to the ongoing civilian suffering in Yemen, the resolution also points to a long-existent resentment held by many in the US Congress over a certain powerlessness to decide on when and where the United States uses military assets or proffers military support.

Speaking to this resentment, and by a 366 to 30 majority vote in November (2017), US Congressmen passed House Resolution 599, a bill “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen, and for other purposes” and which, among other areas, “calls on all parties to the conflict to increase efforts to adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent civilian casualties and to increase humanitarian access”, while pointing to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, that “the conflict between Saudi-led Arab Coalition and the Houthi-Saleh alliance is counterproductive to ongoing efforts by the United States to pursue Al Qaeda and its associated forces”.

Senators Sanders, Lee, and Murphy feel that enough support now exists to bring the joint resolution to a Senate vote (a 51 to 49 majority would be required). Against a backdrop of continuing civilian casualties in Yemen, the resolution also refers specifically to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis’ comments of December 2017 that “We have gone in to be very…to be helpful where we can in identifying how you do target analysis and how you make certain you hit the right thing.” As the Saudi military machine continues to target indiscriminately, Sanders et al feel that a vote in the Senate soon would be likely to have a favourable outcome and end US involvement in Yemen.