On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to end U.S. involvement in the ongoing Yemeni Civil War. The conflict, which began in 2015 following an attempted takeover of the nation by Houthi rebels, has led to what the UN has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Since the war’s outbreak the U.S. has provided support to the pro-government Saudi-led coalition in the form of aerial jet refuelling, surveillance, intelligence, and targeting information. Congress now hopes to force a rethink of such involvement and bring about a policy shift to end both the conflict and its devastating humanitarian results.
President Trump, however, is expected to veto the measure when it lands on his desk. The White House has said Congress’ unprecedented invocation of the 1973 War Powers Act- which allows the legislature to curb the executive’s ability to take the U.S. into conflict- raises “serious constitutional concerns.” On the contrary, the two lead sponsors of the bill claim it represents their taking “a clear stance against war and famine” and a reclamation of Congress’ “constitutional authority over matters of war and peace.” Scott Paul, the leading Yemen expert at Oxfam, claims a Presidential veto would deal a damaging blow to the U.S.’ international standing, and send the message to crisis-stricken Yemenis that the U.S. “simply does not care.”
Since the start of the war in 2015, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project estimates that at least 60,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the fighting. The partial blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition has led to the additional deaths of an estimated 85,000 children via malnutrition, reports the charity Save the Children. The UN claims that this famine has left 70% of the population food-insecure, and 14 million lives at risk. With such shocking civilian and humanitarian consequences surrounding the war, it seems a shift in approach from the U.S. is needed, lest they continue to sanction such outcomes. Yet the Trump administration has so far signalled it believes U.S. involvement must continue.
Despite the seemingly inevitable veto to the bill, there is reason for optimism regarding the changing mood in Congress. Whilst this particular bill may not itself pass, a more assertive, dovish, Congress, can only help in ending the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition depends on U.S. jet-refuelling, intelligence, and so on, in continuing its activities- Stop the War claims “none of [their] brutality would be possible without this support.” As the mood across Washington changes, and U.S. involvement in the war grows ever more unpopular, a move towards withdrawal becomes more likely. Even if this bill fails, U.S. lawmakers have signalled pressure on the President will not end there- Senator Chris Murphy, one of the bill’s authors, claims “we have plenty of other avenues we can pursue.” If those in favour of the bill wish to see an end to the crisis, their efforts can not merely stop at its passing through Congress, or its rejection via a Presidential veto, pressure must be placed on the White House. If the decision ultimately rests with the executive, then Congress must make it its mission to change their mind.