by Louise Lansberry
For over seven years, the Saudi War against Yemen has gone on. For most Americans, this conflict is not at all on their radar even though the United Nations calls Yemen the greatest humanitarian tragedy in the world because of breakdown in availability of food and medical care as well as destruction of their country. The war in Ukraine, however, is right before our eyes in the media as well as within various groups wanting to emphasize the plight of the Ukrainian people. There are many similarities in these two conflicts: Ukraine and Yemen were each invaded by a more powerful nation, Russia and Saudi Arabia respectively, wanting to re-define borders and change the leadership. Further, the United States has contributed greatly in each case to carrying out these wars: you already know what the US has been supplying to Ukraine, but the US has been providing the Saudis with intelligence, training of Saudi pilots, (for some time) mid-air re-fueling of Saudi military planes, and, critically, Congressional votes to allow fulfillment of Saudi requests for US planes and maintenance contracts for those planes.
Further, one of the aspects of the conflict in Ukraine that you hear about over and over is the guilt that the Russians have in terms of war crimes. I doubt you’ve heard about the war crimes of the Saudis against the Yemenis unless you read the June 4th story in the Washington Post that highlighted a study by the Security Force Monitor at Columbia University Law School. The authors of that work provided information on specific squadrons of the Saudi air force that bombed Yemeni schools, hospitals, and other civilian structures. as well as combatants.
What’s the real goal in each of these conflicts? You probably have your own analysis of the Russian ambitions. In the case of Yemen, the Saudis not only want an opportunity to have an oil pipe line through Yemen to make shipping of oil easier, they also don’t in any way want Iran to have any say in the governing of Yemen. However, the Houthis, the Yemeni group most involved in this war, have had only minimal support from Iran in stark contrast with the amount of support the Saudis have gotten from the United States.
A United Nations brokered truce was introduced in April, held through May and was extended through September. Although the air strikes by the Saudis as well as the use of drones by the Houthis have ended during this period of time, the Saudis have not completely lifted the blockade of the main seaport or allowed the agreed upon flights from Sanaa airport, thus continuing the food and medical crisis of the Yemenis. A CNN report indicated that 400 thousand children are at risk for malnutrition and some 5 thousand need to leave the country for specialized medical care.
A further complication happened during Biden’s visit to the Middle East in July when the United States and Saudi Arabia invoked United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, the Jeddah Communique, which blames the Houthis for the war, needless to say a non-starter in working out any lasting agreement between the Saudis and the Houthis.
This past June, Reps. Jayapal and Defazio introduced HJR 87, the War Powers Resolution in the House to stop US complicity in helping Saudi Arabia. This resolution would require Congress to actually vote on whether the US should be involved in this conflict. Sen. Sanders has introduced a companion resolution in the Senate, SJR 56.
Unlike 2019, however, when the War Powers Resolution did pass both houses of Congress ( and then Trump vetoed it) , there are concerns that it might not even pass Congress this time. Some members of Congress are saying the measure is “too harsh”, that contractors can’t stop servicing planes they sell to Saudi Arabia, and many don’t want to rock the boat with Saudi Arabia.
Passage of the War Powers Resolution may not end the war in Yemen, but at least the United States will not be contributing to the continuation of the suffering.
Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support HJR 87 and SJR 56 when these bills come up for a vote.