By Christopher A. Preble
Last week, before Michael Cohen and the collapse of U.S.-North Korea talks in Hanoi, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a House resolution cutting off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen would not have “privileged” status in the Senate, due to unrelated language that had been inserted at the 11th hour.
This means that the measure’s supporters are unable to force a vote and pass it with a simple majority. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) plan to reintroduce a resolution similar to one they sponsored (with Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut) last year, and hopefully it will be voted on this week.
But the delay means that U.S. involvement in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, threatens millions more, and undermines American security and values, will continue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has previously tried to block efforts at ending American involvement in foreign wars, and it is reasonable, therefore, to suspect that he was behind this latest move. But he’s hardly the first GOP leader to employ such methods. Outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) similarly blocked a vote in the House after the Senate passed the Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution late last year.
Such parliamentary shenanigans shield the Saudi Kingdom from official sanction. They also allow their enablers in Washington to dodge accountability, and enable individual members of Congress to avoid taking a public stand that defies the wishes of a solid majority of their constituents. A poll last November, for example, revealed that 75 percent of Americans oppose U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in the war and 82 percent believe Congress should reduce or end arms sales.
The public is equally skeptical of the United States’ close ties to Saudi Arabia. The U.S.-Saudi relationship has always conflicted with Americans’ stated commitment to democracy and human rights. Indeed, on numerous occasions Riyadh has demanded that the U.S. government alter its policies to conform with or accommodate blatantly repressive and discriminatory practices, though not often successfully.
The Saudis’ behavior outside the Kingdom has been problematic, too. Going back at least to the mid-1950s, the United States has become involved in various regional disputes to assuage Saudi fears, tip the balance away from one of Riyadh’s rivals, or generally affirm the U.S. government’s commitment to protecting the monarchy from internal or external challengers. Many of these actions ended badly. The ongoing war in Yemen, however, may be the worst of all.
The civil war began during the Arab Spring in 2011. Longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an American ally, stepped down under mounting public pressure. His deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, struggled to maintain control. Houthi rebels took control of most of the country during the chaos and forced Hadi into exile.
You can read the full opinion article at Cato Institute here.