Yemen: House Democrats must end support for Saudi Arabia

House Democrats must end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen
4 min read
09 Nov, 2018
Comment: When Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January, they must make ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen a priority, writes CJ Werleman.
14 million Yemenis are now on the brink of famine [AP]
The Saudi-led coalition has defied the Trump administration's 31 October call for a ceasefire in Yemen with an all-out offensive against the port city of Hodeida in the past week.

It has launched more than 200 airstrikes on rebel-held positions, killing more than 150 civilians on the ground, in an assault that can only be seen as unconscionable war crime, given up to 80 percent of all humanitarian aid to the country flows through this port.

The bombardment has been so intense, that the only functioning hospital in the nearby area is now also at risk, which UNICEF says will put the lives of 59 children, including 25 in intensive care, at "imminent risk of death".

Earlier this year, an international aid group claimed more than 50,000 Yemeni children may have died in 2017 alone, with an estimated 130 dying each day as a result of the Saudi-led blockade and bombardment, while a myriad of aid groups warn the country is on the brink of famine.

Clearly, the time for the United States to end its support of Saudi Arabia's violence in Yemen is now. Given the political will to bring a halt to the four-year long conflict is present on both sides of the political aisle in Washington DC, and that the Democratic Party will now take control of the House in January, there is no room for excuses.

With Trump in the White House and the Republican Party controlling both the House and Senate for the past four years - the momentum for bringing an end to the Saudi-led catastrophe in Yemen - one that has been underwritten by the United States, has remained elusive.

Without US support, Saudi Arabia cannot continue to wage its war in Yemen

In August, Senate Republicans narrowly blocked an amendment that would've "cut off US support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition's war in Yemen until the Secretary of Defense certified that the coalition's air campaign is not violating international law and US policy related to the protection of civilians".

"The Republicans objected,"tweeted Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who sponsored the amendment. "It's just unthinkable to me that we continue to willingly participate in the slaughter of Yemeni kids when there is zero benefit to US security. Mind blowing really."

Win Without War, a grassroots anti-war activist group described the amendment as "our big chance to slam on the brakes and stop our role in enabling the suffering in Yemen". But even though the proposal stopped short of demanding a halt to US military operations in Yemen - only calling for a temporary halt until it could be proven civilians weren't being targeted - Senate Republicans killed the bill.

With Democrats taking control of the House in January, however, the impetus to finally put an end to a conflict that has devolved into the world's worst humanitarian crisis will be reinvigorated. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the 2016 standard bearer for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, has stated firm opposition to the conflict, tweeting,

"The truth about Yemen is that US forces have been actively engaged in support of the Saudi coalition in this war, providing intelligence and aerial refueling of planes whose bombs have killed thousands of people and made this humanitarian crisis far worse."

The sentiment expressed by Sanders is one that is also shared by pretty much all of the 49 Democrats in the Senate voting to end unconditional US support for Saudi operations in a defeated March 2018 bill.

A bill that starts in the Democratic controlled House, however, will force Senate Republicans to put up or shut up, forcing many who've voiced their opposition to the war to cast an actionable vote alongside their anti-war rhetoric.

Not only does a Democratic controlled House change the political dynamics in Washington, but also the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey could give political cover for members of both parties to take a firm stance against Saudi Arabia.

Read more: Khashoggi's murder comes as little surprise to war-weary Yemenis

Without US support, Saudi Arabia cannot continue to wage its war in Yemen given the US provides the Saudi-led coalition with satellite intelligence, satellite guidance technology, air support, military equipment and logistical assistance.

"If the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman that this war has to end, it would end tomorrow, because the Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support," observes Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and Pentagon official.

In short, there's never been a more opportune time - at least politically - to end this catastrophe in Yemen. The ball is now firmly in the court of the Democratic Party, the new overseers of policy making in the United States.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.