By Tyler Bauer
The war in Yemen is perhaps the least well-known war in which the United States is involved. Seeing as we’re involved in quite a few wars, the fact that your average citizen knows nothing about the war in Yemen is understandable. That doesn’t make the war any less damaging, though. So, here’s a quick background on the war in Yemen. (The data on the Yemeni Civil War are largely outdated, as data-collection has become increasingly more difficult as the war has gone on.)
· The main parties to the Yemeni Civil War are the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels are allegedly supported by Iran and Eritrea, although there is no proof of these allegations.
· The United States supports the Saudi coalition (consisting of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Senegal, and Sudan, with Morocco and Qatar being former members), which supports the Yemeni government.
· American involvement has taken a number of forms, including the following: drone strikes; supplying weapons; financial support; and general support of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, including providing Saudi Arabia with weapons and refueling Saudi planes conducting strikes in Yemen.
· As of December 2018, more than 60,000 people were killed in the Yemeni Civil War.
· Over 6,000 of those deaths were non-combatant civilians caught in the crossfire.
· An additional 500 Saudi citizens (likely more by now) have been killed.
· In November 2017, nearly 50,000 had been injured in the war.
· Over three million people – mostly Yemenis – have been displaced as a result of the Yemeni Civil War.
· As a result of the war, over 85,000 children have died of hunger.
· Nearly 3,000 have died from a cholera outbreak, caused by the degradation in living conditions as a result of the war.
Despite these facts, the United States government – under both Obama and Trump – have supported the Saudi coalition and remained involved in the Yemeni Civil War. Surprisingly, nobody in government ever questioned whether we should continue to support this humanitarian crisis of a war. Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even went as far as blocking a vote on the Yemeni Civil War in the House of Representatives, opting to let people die so he can avoid responsibility. Thankfully, Paul Ryan is out of Congress, and things have changed in the past couple months.
In February, after being freed from Paul Ryan’s control, the House of Representatives voted 248-177 to invoke the War Powers resolution of 1973 and direct the Trump administration to cease support for the Saudi-UAE led war on Yemen. This vote directed President Trump “to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen within 30 days unless Congress authorizes a later withdrawal date, issues a declaration of war, or specifically authorizes the use of the Armed Forces. Prohibited activites include providing in-flight fueling for non-U.S. aircraft conducting missions as part of the conflict in Yemen.” The House vote alone was a huge step towards peace.
On Friday, the Senate followed the House and voted to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen. The Senate vote was much closer, though, ending in a 54-46 victory for peace. This was somewhat surprising, as the Republicans still control the Senate. This means that a number of Republicans had to break with the party line to end support for the war in Yemen. Among those free-thinking Republicans was Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a prominent advocate for peace. (You can see the complete roll call here.) Thanks to Senator Paul and a few of his Republican colleagues, the Senate also directed President Trump to end support for the war in Yemen.
To nobody’s surprise, the Trump administration isn’t going down without a fight. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Senate of not “truly caring” for the millions of Yemenis affected by American involvement in Yemen. Although he didn’t explicitly say so, Pompeo implied that the “caring” and “humanitarian” thing to do would be to continue support Saudi Arabia – a known human rights abuser (evidence can be found here and here) – in its mission to destroy Yemen. Pompeo went on to say, “If you truly care about Yemeni lives, you’d support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state of the corrupt, brutish Islamic Republic of Iran” (Oddly enough, Iran isn’t all that corrupt or brutish, especially when compared to the U.S. and its allies. Iran has never started a war, has never really attacked anyone, and has actually been instrumental in fighting ISIS throughout the Middle East.)
Seeing as both houses of Congress have voted to end the U.S. support of the Saudi coalition in the Yemeni Civil War, President Trump will likely be forced to act. Under the War Powers Resolution, President Trump would be forced to do one of two things: either withdraw support, or formally declare war. I have a hard time believing President Trump could successfully declare war, but I have an equally hard time believing President Trump will withdraw support. He has shown no interest in human rights and an immense amount of interest in doing whatever Saudi Arabia wants. If you need proof, look no further than President Trump’s willingness to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Saudis, who are objectively among the worst human rights abusers.
I have no idea what will happen next, but I think there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic after both houses of Congress have taken a stand on the war in Yemen.