In 2011, in the midst of the Arab Spring, millions of Yemenis led a peaceful uprising calling for democratic reforms which ended the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Gulf Cooperation Council led an effort to transition power from former president Saleh to his deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, but Hadi continued his predecessor’s practices of repression and corruption, which fueled further popular unrest.
In September 2014, Houthi rebels who were allied with security forces loyal to former president Saleh seized the capital Sana’a, overthrowing President Hadi and intensifying Yemen’s civil war. In March 2015, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia intervened to reinstate Hadi and his pro-Riyadh government. The United States has supported the Arab military coalition since it launched its military intervention in March 2015.
The Saudi-led coalition uses U.S.-made airplanes, U.S.-made bombs, and U.S. intelligence for its bombardment of Yemen. Additionally, the U.S. supplies mid-air refueling services for Saudi and Emirati bombers. These activities are a leading cause of civilian casualties in the war and the primary driver of the world’s largest humanitarian emergency. The air campaign has decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, fueling the largest outbreak of cholera ever recorded: more than 1 million reported cases as of May 2018. In addition, 18 million Yemenis are food insecure and 8.4 million are on the brink of famine.
President Obama initiated American support for the war, while making clear that U.S. support depended on steps by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to reduce civilian casualties and allow the free entry of humanitarian war. Due to a lack of progress, the Administration placed a hold on the sale of precision-guided munitions. President Trump has reinstated full US backing for the coalition, doubled refueling assistance to coalition planes, and resumed the sale of PGMs.
Congress has never authorized U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Neither the Trump nor the Obama administration have cited the 2001 or 2002 Authorization of Use of Military Force as the legal justification for U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition's intervention against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. AQAP and ISIS, organizations the AUMF has been invoked against, have benefited from the continuation of the Saudi-led war, as noted by the 2017 Worldwide Threat Assessment. Despite the national security threat, Congress fail to adopt Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) joint resolution disapproving of a $510 million precision-guided munitions sale to Saudi Arabia, by the razor-thin vote of 47-53.
In November 2017, the Saudi government closed all Yemeni ground, sea, and airports in response to intercepting a missile launched from Yemen targeting Riyadh. Although in subsequent months the coalition has let aid pass, the political instability has deterred shippers, curtailing their ability to deliver food, medicine, fuel, and other humanitarian goods.
The humanitarian situation grew even more dire in June 2018, when UAE forces launched Operation Golden Victory, a ground offensive to retake the critical port city of Hodeidah, through which seventy percent of imports are received. Any interruption of commercial or humanitarian inflows through Hodeidah would result in substantial increases in the price of food. Humanitarian agencies believe that even absent any interruption, millions of people could experience famine this year.
The battle has raged on in the port city for months – contrary the Gulf coalition’s prediction of a quick victory and a more efficiently run port. Many Hodeidah residents have been stuck in their houses with limited food and water supplies. Many have been displaced to cities like Sana’a and al-Dhihar. The rebels offered a compromise which hands control of the port over to the UN. On August 6th, AP reported that the Saudi-led coalition has been paying al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula to leave cities, rather than defeating them militarily, as previously assumed. U.S. officials were reportedly aware of the transactions and withheld drone strikes on the retreating militants.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
It's time for the United States to stop its military support to the Saudi-led coalition. Rep. Ro Khanna has introduced legislation to end US involvement. Call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to support the legislation and put the U.S. squarely behind UN-led diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement that stops the war. Be sure to mention:
- The United States' involvement in conflict against the Houthis strengthens al-Qaeda's operations in the country.
- By providing refueling services and intelligence to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is complicit in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
- Congress has never authorized military action against the Houthis.
- The Yemen Peace Project
- Press Release: ‘Yemen: Collective Punishment Must End Now’ – International Rescue Committee
- In a World of Crises, Yemen Still Stands Out – By Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post
- Stop the Unconstitutional War in Yemen – By Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Walter Jones (R-NC), The New York Times
- How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse – By Nicolas Niarchos, The New Yorker
- Children Are Starving in Yemen. The White House Should Intervene. – By The Editorial Board, The Washington Post
- Why Congress Must Vote on the United States’ Role in Yemen – By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Mike Lee, and Sen. Chris Murphy, The Washington Post
- The U.S. “Yellow Light” in Yemen – By Daniel L. Byman, Brookings