On March 20, the Senate voted 44 to 56 to defeat a bipartisan joint resolution to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.
The vote took place shortly after Trump met with Saudi Arabia’s prince bin Salman in Washington D.C. and days after hard-sell lobbying of Senators by the administration against the resolution. In his typical fashion, at the meeting Trump referred to Saudi Arabia as a ““very great friend and a big purchaser of equipment and lots of other things.” (The Hill)
In the vote, 10 Democratic Senators joined with all but five Republicans to defeat the the Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution.
On the floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a nonsensical remark in opposition to the resolution: “Withdrawing U.S. support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian casualties. And it would signal that we are not serious about containing Iran or its proxies.”
How exactly withdrawing U.S. support for a brutal genocidal war against one of the poorest nations on the planet would increase civilian casualties is not something McConnell could be bothered to explain.
Claims of Iranian interference
“Iran or its proxies” is another false flag issue. The United States has been claiming for years that Iran is involved in Yemen via the Houthis–a claim denied by both the government of Iran and the Houthi leadership. Revealing their ignorance of the Yemeni reality, those trying to “prove” this connection point out that Iran is led by Shia clerics and the Houthis are also Shias, disregarding that the Houthis are Zaidi Shias, a sect of Islam unique to Yemen, making for a rather slim trail of circumstantial evidence to back the claim. Independent experts have concluded that allegations of Iranian support for the Houthis are overblown. And in October 2017, Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, nonresident senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative and senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic studies at Pembroke College at Oxford University, reached the conclusion that “with or without Iran’s involvement, the underlying structure of the conflict would likely be the same.”
In any event, the crisis in Yemen has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the powerful, U.S.-backed neighbor of an impoverished nation brutally intervening in a civil war and creating a humanitarian crisis. In fact, Saudi Arabia has a long history of intervening in Yemeni affairs, including its intervention into the civil war of the 1960s in which Saudis supported the pro-Zaidi Imamate Royalist forces– against those seeking a more democratic and modern society in the North of Yemen. In other words, back in the day, the Saudis and their U.S. backers supported a Zaidi clerical regime against the forces of greater democratization.
Imperialism wants to control civil war settlement
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was one of the Democrats who voted against the resolution. He spoke knowledgeably about “the unacceptable scale of civilian casualties, the severity of the humanitarian crisis, and the seeming lack of momentum on all sides toward a political track to negotiate an end to this conflict.” But after all that he still couldn’t support the resolution because, he said, U.S. withdrawal would “weaken our leadership and ability to influence a political settlement and improve humanitarian conditions and could even make the situation worse.” (NBC)
Once again, the unsupported claim was made that stopping U.S. financial and logistical support for the Saudi assault on Yemen could somehow “make the situation worse.” More important in Menendez’s remarks is his fear that ending U.S. support would weaken imperialism’s “ability to influence a political settlement.”
The situation in Yemen really is dire. From a press release by the resolution’s sponsors:
“As a result of the Saudi-led war, a child under the age of five in Yemen dies of preventable causes every 10 minutes. More than 10,000 civilians have died and more than 40,000 have been wounded in this war. Fifteen million people can’t access clean water and sanitation. An estimated 17 million people – 60 percent of the total population – do not have reliable access to food and are at risk of starvation.”
But alleviating this humanitarian crisis apparently takes second place to maintaining the “ability influence a political settlement.”
Prior to the Saudi intervention, Yemen was in the midst of a multi-party civil war which is still ongoing. Parties to this conflict include: Houthis; forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh; forces loyal to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the former vice-president under Saleh and a caretaking president following Saleh’s resignation after the events of the Arab Spring; Al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula as well as other forces in the South that may be seeking independence. Yemen is strategically located and has largely untapped oil resources and the U.S. would like to control the outcome of any political settlement to end the civil war to assure that a new government is compliant with U.S. interests. Of course, Yemenis have a long and proud history of independence and self-rule; foreign powers have had no luck historically in attempting to dominate the nation.
Significance of the resolution
It is a significant, positive development that a bipartisan resolution to end support for the U.S.-Saudi war came to the floor of the Senate, winning the votes of 44 Senators. This will not be the end of activity in Congress around this issue.
Revolutionaries and anti-imperialists should critically evaluate and support bills and resolutions to end U.S. support for this brutal war. We also need to uphold the principle of self-determination for the Yemeni people, free from any intervention or interference from imperialism or its proxies. The (unstated) motivation for the resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi’s war crimes is that this support undermines the U.S. role in the region, feeds “anti-American” sentiment and so on. We must make clear that our support for Senate and Congressional action is strictly an expression of our solidarity with the Yemeni people–part of doing all we can to end the U.S.-backed Saudi war. At the same time we do not have to accept the pro-imperialist foundational assumptions that underlie such efforts in the Senate and the House.
End the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen! Self-determination for the Yemeni people!