On February 28, 2018, Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a resolution calling for an end to American support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen. In their call to action, the three senators cited the U.S. role in perpetuating Yemen’s catastrophic humanitarian crisis and the constitutional requirement that Congress authorize military interventions and acts of war.
The conflict in Yemen entered a new phase of intensity in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition began intervening in the country in support of the ousted, internationally recognized government of Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and against the tenuous alliance between Houthi rebels and supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The United States quickly supported the intervention, providing “logistical and intelligence” support to the coalition.
Over the past three years, Saudi bombs and blockades have failed to restore Hadi’s government or bring Yemen’s bloody conflict any closer to a resolution. Instead, the American-backed campaign has produced the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, “with seven million on the brink of famine, over three million internally displaced and an expected one million cases of cholera by the end of ,” according to the International Crisis Group.
Since the intervention began, the United Nations has found the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the majority of the 5,000+ civilian deaths. As Sanders, Lee, and Murphy wrote in The Washington Post last week, “the U.S. military is making the crisis worse by helping one side in the conflict bomb innocent civilians. The millions we have spent in humanitarian aid [in Yemen] were necessitated, in part, by a U.S. government failure.”
Meanwhile, the campaign has failed to result in any strategic dividends for the coalition, with Saudi efforts to divide the Houthi-Saleh alliance backfiring. While the alliance did dissolve in early December 2017, it resulted in a clear Houthi victory over their former partners. Since then, the Saudi-led coalition has intensified its bombing campaign, but as Crisis Group’s April Longley Alley has argued, these strikes are unlikely to dislodge the Houthis and, instead, “work to their advantage by increasing anti-Saudi sentiment.”
The destruction and disorder wrought by the relentless air campaign has also allowed actors, such as al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), to improve their position and influence in the country. By continuing to fuel the Saudi bombardment of Yemen, the United States is, therefore, actively undermining its own efforts to counter al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in the region.
Sanders, Murphy, and Lee are correct: the United States must end its involvement in the immoral, destructive, and unsuccessful Saudi-led war effort in Yemen. Their new resolution, along with a similar House resolution that has over fifty co-sponsors, is a necessary step to alleviate the suffering in Yemen and perhaps move the conflict toward a negotiated solution. In the week since the Senate resolution’s introduction, four additional Senators—Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA)—have signed on as cosponsors.
Unfortunately, the bipartisan resolution will likely face difficulties in getting through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote. To counter these challenges, Americans across the political spectrum must call on their senators and voice their support for this important resolution. As the war in Yemen drags on and the humanitarian crisis worsens, the United States must reassess its role in perpetuating these tragedies and finally end its support for the Saudi-led bombardment.