By Kate Kizer
Although the brutal assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi may have begun to recede from the American public consciousness, Washington has clearly not moved on. In fact, the new Democratic majority in the House is poised, in partnership with key Senate leaders, to advance a bold agenda to bring accountability to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and finally reassert congressional oversight of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
In no place is congressional action more urgent than in Yemen, where approximately half of the population—nearly 14 million people—remain on the brink of starvation due to the war and the ensuing economic collapse in the country. Although congressional pressure caused the Trump administration to finally call for an end to the war last October and cut off U.S. refueling support in November, the United States remains intimately involved in the Saudi- and UAE-led military operations in the country.
The newly minted House Foreign Affairs Committee’s first priority was to follow up on the Senate’s unprecedented passage of the war powers resolution on Yemen last December that positively influenced ceasefire negotiations in Sweden. It did so by marking up Congressmen Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mark Pocan’s (D-WI) (along with 68 bipartisan colleagues) war powers resolution on Yemen. The committee reported the resolution favorably out of committee this week, and there may be a floor vote by the end of February.
Senators Sanders (I-VT), Lee (R-UT), and Murphy (D-CT) have also reintroduced their war powers resolution, setting up another Senate vote to send the legislation to the president’s desk. Should the resolution pass both chambers as it is likely to do, it will set up a confrontation with Trump. He will have to decide whether to listen to the will of Congress in asserting its constitutional authority over matters of war or side with the Saudi and Emirati governments, whose support his administration views as essential to pursuing its primary goal of military confrontation with Iran.
Even if Trump vetoes the war powers resolution, passage in both chambers of Congress will continue to signal much-needed pressure to the Saudi-led coalition that a political solution is the only acceptable resolution to this conflict. It will also indicate that U.S. support for their indefinite military adventurism, which relies on collective punishment of civilians, is not a blank check. Although the December ceasefire and confidence-building agreement made in Stockholm remains precarious, further congressional pressure can have a positive effect in support of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths’ shuttle diplomacy.
Should Trump decide to ignore the will of Congress, it will also provide the impetus Congress needs to take further action to limit U.S. military cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen. A variety of legislative initiatives lie at Congress’ disposal and many have already been initiated.
You can read the full opinion article at Lobe Log here.