Yemen: House votes to end US support for Saudi-led war – setting way for congressional showdown with Trump

First time war powers resolution invoked to check actions of president 

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 04 April 2019 12:54
Video shows damaged buildings and homes in Yemen village hit by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes

The US congress has voted to end America’s support for the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen – setting the way for a showdown with Donald Trump who will likely veto the move.

In a major rejection of the president’s unquestioning support for the kingdom, especially following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the House of Representatives voted 247-175 to end support for the operations that have caused a massive humanitarian crisis.

The resolution, a version of which was passed last month by the Senate, now goes to the president’s desk. The White House says the measure raises “serious constitutional concerns” and Mr Trump is expected to reject it.

At that point, it will be up to congressional leaders to determine whether they have the two-thirds majority in both chambers to overturn the president’s veto.

“The president will have to face the reality that congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy,” said congressman Eliot Engel, chair of the House foreign affairs. He said the humanitarian crisis in Yemen triggered by the war “demands moral leadership”.

The United Nations (UN) estimated last year that 6,872 civilians had been killed and 10,768 wounded, the majority in Saudi-led air strikes, since the military operation began in March 2015. Thousands of others have died from diseases such as cholera, which have taken grip as the nation’s already feeble infrastructure has been weakened in the conflict.

The operation against the Houthi rebels has included the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. Qatar ended its involvement in 2017.

The US has been providing crucial in-flight refuelling services to the coalition’s jets, along with logistical and target help. The UK has provided training and intelligence support, along with the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, despite calls from activists to stop. All the main opposition parties in Britain have backed such calls for a ban.

The vote by the House represents the first time congress has involved a decades-old war powers resolution to try to stop a president involving the nation in a conflict without the authorisation of legislators. Senators voted 54-46 on 13 March.

US Senate rebukes Saudi Arabia voting to end support for Yemen war, defying Trump

“Today, the US House of Representatives took a clear stand against war and famine and for congress’s war powers by voting to end our complicity in the war in Yemen,” said veteran senator Bernie Sanders and congressman Ro Khanna in a statement.

The two Democrats added: “This is the first time in the history of this nation that a war powers resolution has passed the House and Senate and made it to the president’s desk.”

Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but opposed the bill. He said it was an abuse of the war powers resolution, which was passed in 1973.

“This radical interpretation has implications far beyond Saudi Arabia,” Mr McCaul said, warning it could impact US security relationships with up to 100 nations.

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