The recent round of devastating airstrikes launched in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition marks the latest escalation of a conflict that has dragged on for nearly seven years, pushed millions to the brink of famine, and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. A recent bombardment killed at least 90 people and cut off Internet access for the entire country for days. The disturbing truth is that the United States, through its military involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s war against the Houthis in Yemen, has been directly participating in this horrific war for too long. It’s time for this complicity to end.
A year ago last week, President Biden announced that he would withdraw US support from the Saudi-led coalition’s “offensive” operations in Yemen. This suggested there would be dramatic decreases in military logistical support and arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Yet the exact opposite has occurred.
In the past year, Saudi Arabia has doubled down on its strategy of collective punishment by conducting hundreds of indiscriminate airstrikes, destroying vital civilian infrastructure, and further tightening a crippling blockade on Yemen’s ports—restricting access to food, fuel, and medicine. As a result, there are now over 16 million Yemenis living on the edge of starvation and over 2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition.
Since 2015, the United States has directly participated in this war without authorization from Congress. This is in clear violation of Article I of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which grants Congress the power to declare war and authorize US military involvement.
After Biden’s announcement last year, 41 members of Congress pressed the administration for transparency about ongoing US involvement in the war in Yemen, including what constitutes “offensive” versus “defensive” support for the Saudi-led coalition.
The State Department’s response came three months later and offered no new information on actions to end so-called “offensive” support. The Pentagon later acknowledged that it was continuing to allow spare parts transfers and assistance in maintenance activities and logistics for operations conducted by the Saudi air force.
In September, we joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives who, for the third time in as many years, voted to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition through the National Defense Authorization Act—only to have the provision stripped out of the final bill.
Since Biden’s announcement, members of Congress have engaged in ongoing conversations with the administration about ending US participation in this war. But, a year later, nothing has substantively changed on the ground, while the Saudi coalition’s military campaign has only intensified.
As a candidate, President Biden pledged to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen while many who now serve as senior officials in his administration repeatedly called for shutting down precisely the activities the US is engaged in that enable Saudi Arabia’s brutal offensive. We call on them to follow through on their commitment.
Let us be clear: Prohibiting US involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s aerial operations will not, by itself, end the war. Houthi forces have committed grave human rights violations in Yemen and launched cross-border attacks in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These actions have escalated the conflict, and we fully condemn them. But violations by Houthi forces do not serve as justification for enabling Saudi-led abuses against civilians, which have perpetuated the conflict and will continue spurring escalation and violence.
While the US may not be able to unilaterally end all fighting, we can stop supporting Saudi Arabia’s brutal campaign in Yemen, and exert leverage to compel them to lift their blockade. This will save countless civilian lives and give Washington the diplomatic credibility needed to make progress with stalled peace talks.
We will not sit by as the Constitution is ignored and the Yemeni people suffer seven years into this unauthorized war. If the administration refuses to act, Congress will force them to. In advance of the seventh anniversary of this war, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to pass a new Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unconstitutional US participation in this war.
Our aim is clear: To reassert Congress’s constitutional war powers authority, terminate unauthorized US involvement in this endless war, reinvigorate diplomatic efforts, and ease this devastating humanitarian disaster. American complicity has persisted in this conflict for too long—now it’s time for Congress to act.