It’s a rare congressional rebuke of President Donald Trump.
The United States has spent years helping Saudi Arabia bombard Yemen, killing thousands of civilians along the way. Now members of Congress say America needs to stop supporting the bloodshed.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday that tacitly says America shouldn’t assist Saudi Arabia in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. That’s because, by a wide 366-30 margin, the House believes the US is only authorized to fight terrorist groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda whether they are in the Middle East, North Africa, or even Asia. The key distinction here is that the lawmakers say the US isn’t authorized to fight the Houthis.
It’s the first time a resolution to end America’s involvement in Yemen has passed in Congress, but, crucially, the House resolution is nonbinding. That means the US will likely continue to assist Saudi Arabia by refueling its planes and providing intelligence in Riyadh’s brutal air war.
Impoverished before the conflict, Yemen has suffered greatly due to a Saudi blockade and airstrikes that have destroyed hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure.
So far, the conflict has claimed more than 13,500 lives, with more than 900,000 suffering from cholera. Roughly 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs — including food and water — out of a prewar population of 28 million.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who leads the House effort against America’s involvement in Yemen, told HuffPost’s Akbar Shahid Ahmed that the vote is only a small step forward. “The shift in our foreign policy is not going to happen overnight,” Khanna said. “If I’m looking at something from a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of shifting US foreign policy, maybe this is a 2. But it is a 2.”
So while the resolution may not do much, it does signal a slight shift away from ever-closer US-Saudi ties under President Donald Trump — and comes at a time when the young Saudi prince who is the country’s likely next king wants to escalate the war even further.
One man drives the Yemen war
Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia and defense minister, is the mastermind behind the war in Yemen. It’s part of his aggressive anti-Iran policy in the Middle East, which led him to intervene in Yemen in support of the internationally recognized government against the Houthis.
Iran’s government is a Shia Muslim theocracy; Saudi Arabia’s government is a monarchy closely aligned with the country’s Sunni Muslim religious establishment. The two countries represent two ideological and political poles and have spent decades fighting each other for dominance in the Middle East and for the right to represent the Muslim world.
MBS, as he is more widely known, along with his father, King Salman, earlier this month completed a purge of an astonishing 11 princes and dozens of other officials and businessmen. That allowed MBS to consolidate even more power in Saudi Arabia, which gives him even more authority to direct Riyadh’s war in Yemen.
Trump continues to support bin Salman, going so far as to approve his purge in a tweet on November 6. So even if the House doesn’t like America’s involvement in Yemen, the White House likes Saudi Arabia — which means US support for a growing humanitarian crisis likely isn’t going away.