Yemen: Congress passes bill to end US involvement in conflict
Trump widely expected to veto ‘flawed’ bipartisan resolution that is being seen as rebuke to Saudi Arabia
The US Congress has passed a resolution to halt the country’s involvement in the brutal civil war in Yemen, setting up a confrontation with Donald Trump.
The House of Representatives voted 247 to 175 on Thursday to approve a bill that directs the president “to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen” within 30 days.
Washington’s role in the conflict has been highly controversial, with the US supplying funds and weapons to Saudi Arabia. The United Nations has accused Saudi Arabia of multiple war crimes in neighbouring Yemen, where the kingdom has backed pro-government forces battling Houthi rebels.
A total of 16 Republican members of the US House broke ranks and joined Democrats in voting for the resolution this week. The passing of the Bill marks the first time Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Act to curb the executive’s power to take the country into a conflict without congressional approval.
The Senate passed the resolution in March by a vote of 54 to 46.
The New York Times says that by also backing the move, Congress is “sending President Trump a pointed rebuke over his continued defence of the kingdom after the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi”.
But Trump, who has failed to condemn Saudi Arabia over the killing, is widely expected to veto the resolution and prevent its enactment.
If the executive branch goes ahead with a veto, Congress does not appear to have the two-thirds majority needed to override that rejection, says Georgia-based newspaper the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Paris-based news network France24 reports that the White House has called the resolution “flawed”, claiming that it could “harm bilateral relations in the region”, including with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Pentagon provides only “limited support to member countries of the Saudi-led coalition”, the White House added in a statement.
But critics argue that the US has played a critical role in the war in Yemen, providing troops, arms and intelligence to Saudi forces fighting in the country. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the conflict.
The Guardian reports that under “intense public and congressional pressure”, the Pentagon stopped providing aerial refuelling in November for Saudi warplanes. Since then, US involvement in the conflict has mainly comprised providing intelligence support for the coalition, the newspaper adds.
Independent senator Bernie Sanders, one of the Bill’s sponsors during its passing in the Senate, said the resolution provided an “opportunity to take a major step forward in ending the horrific war in Yemen and alleviating that terrible, terrible suffering being experienced by the people in one of the poorest countries in the world”.
“Today we took a clear stand against war and famine and for Congress's war powers,” he added.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel told the chamber: “The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations with regard to foreign policy.”
Given the substantial bipartisan support for the resolution, experts believe that a veto from Trump is a risky move ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
“If Trump vetoes the resolution, he will likely have to seek re-election against a Democratic rival who has taken a less interventionist stance in at least one conflict, in contrast to 2016, when he positioned himself as the anti-war candidate against a Democrat with a very hawkish record,” Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic.