A Win for Antiwar Activists on Yemen

This is an important step forward in ending the indefensible U.S. role in the wrecking of Yemen.

Annelle Sheline comments on the passage of Rep. Ro Khanna’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cut off all assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war on Yemen:

The House voted today to pass Rep. Ro Khanna’s amendment to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. The amendment passed with 11 Republicans voting in favor, and 11 Democrats voting against, with a final vote of 219 to 207. The passage of the amendment represents a win for those that have pushed to end American complicity in the war on Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began its aerial bombardment in 2015.

The passage of the amendment is good news, and it shows that the antiwar coalition that opposed the war under Trump is still intact and committed to ending U.S. involvement. As Sheline mentions, Khanna’s amendment may end up being stripped from the final bill, but it is imperative that it remain part of the legislation.

The amendment, H. Amdt. 113, represents a significant tightening of restrictions on U.S. assistance to the Saudi coalition. If it becomes law, it would block funding for intelligence-sharing, maintenance, and logistical support for Saudi coalition governments for carrying out strikes against targets in Yemen. The amendment includes a broad prohibition on funding for any involvement in the conflict inside Yemen. By adopting Khanna’s amendment, the House is finally using the power of the purse to try to rein in unauthorized U.S. involvement in an atrocious war. Antiwar activists will need to keep the pressure on to make sure that this is included as part of the final bill, but this is an important step forward in ending the indefensible U.S. role in the wrecking of Yemen.

Khanna’s amendment eliminates the loopholes that the Biden administration could exploit. The amendment proposed by Rep. Gregory Meeks, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, leaves those loopholes in place. Sara Sirota explains:

These caveats leave open the door for the Biden administration to continue its tolerance for what many experts consider “offensive” action. In February, the president announced an end to American assistance of “offensive” attacks on Yemen, yet U.S.-backed Saudi warplanes have still conducted airstrikes on the country, and the White House has remained silent on the kingdom’s blockades of Sana’a airport and Hodeidah seaport.

Congress shouldn’t leave the president any loopholes that he might use to keep U.S. assistance to the Saudis going. Biden has paid lip service to ending U.S. support for the war, but as Annelle Sheline and Bruce Riedel explain in their analysis last week he has broken his promise to do so.

The Biden administration must also insist on the lifting of the Saudi coalition blockade that has caused such devastating harm to the civilian population. If the blockade is allowed to remain in place, the U.S. might cut off support for the Saudi military’s airstrikes and it would still not address one of the main drivers of the humanitarian crisis. Opponents of the war on Yemen have to keep pressing Biden to follow through on his promise to withdraw U.S. support from the Saudi coalition and to make sure that he lives up to what he said when he declared that “the war in Yemen must end.”