14 November 2017 – The United States (US) House of Representatives passed on 13 November 2017 a resolution stating that American military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is not authorized under legislation passed by Congress to fight al-Qaeda or invade Iraq. The text, introduced by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and James McGovern (D-MA), was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in a 366–30 vote. It is the latest depiction of growing concern in Congress at the implications of continued, unrestricted US support to the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the passage of this resolution and calls on Congress to take further steps in order to end all US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The nonbinding resolution (H.Res.599) public acknowledges increasing bi-partisan concern over American assistance to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the ongoing Yemen conflict. Though the resolution does not call on the President to halt all US support for ongoing hostilities in Yemen, as proposed in Rep. Ro Khanna’s initial resolution draft (H.Con.Res.81), the resolution does state that US involvement in the conflict has not been authorized by Congress.  President Obama initially ordered the US to assist the Saudi-led coalition under the auspices of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which grants the President authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks. Since then, the US has continued to approve arms sales, share intelligence and targeting information, and conduct refueling missions in support of Coalition airstrikes.

According to the resolution’s text, Saudi Arabia’s operation in Yemen is a separate conflict from the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. To the contrary, rather than weakening al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist organization has benefited from the power vacuum caused by Saudi Arabia’s military operation. The resolution further states that US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been carried out without the due authorization by Congress and that it is not subject to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force or the 2003 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Although symbolic, the resolution has been received as a victory by members of both parties who believe Congress need to keep a closer scrutiny and reauthorize US military operations overseas, which have expanded since Congress last voted for the use of force more than a decade ago.

Since the Saudi-led coalition entered the Yemen conflict in 2015, over 13,000 civilians have been killed, many by Coalition airstrikes which have struck civilian targets including schools and hospitals. In addition, these airstrikes, a devastating blockade, and the destruction of critical infrastructure, have contributed to a humanitarian crisis. Over 700,000 Yemenis have been affected by an outbreak of cholera and 20.7 million Yemenis – including 11 million children – are in need of humanitarian assistance. In the face of widespread suffering, regional, national, and international civil society organizations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have repeatedly called for action to end the conflict and hold the parties accountable for rights abuses. Following this international pressure, Member States at the 36th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a compromise resolution establishing a Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to monitor and report on the situation on human rights in Yemen and to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of human rights.

“We are very glad that the House of Representatives has publicly acknowledged that the US military involvement in the Yemen War is not authorized by Congress. This is a critical step towards ending US complicity in the Saudi-led Coalition’s widespread human rights violations in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its allies cannot fight this war without American assistance, and continued unconditional US support for this coalition on deepens US complicity in abuses committed in that conflict,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Yemenis have suffered enough from the indiscriminate Saudi-led military campaign, supported by the United States. Congress should continue to assert its right for oversight and approval of extended US military operations, and increase its scrutiny on all US arms sales, military training and support for any party to the War in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.”

ADHRB welcomes the passage of H.Res.599 and Congress’ efforts to reassert its powers for the declaration and oversight of war. We encourage greater Congressional scrutiny for all further arms sales and support to any party to the Yemen War, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, and look forward to further efforts to bring an end to this devastating conflict.