The death toll from the war in Yemen1 has reached nearly 400,000 and, despite diplomatic progress, 2022 was one of the deadliest years since the beginning of the conflict eight years ago. While President Biden’s February 2021 announcement2 that “we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen including relevant arms sales” was welcome, the U.S. has continued to provide critical maintenance, logistical support, and spare parts to the Saudi coalition.
Since April 2022, Saudi Arabia has ceased its airstrikes on Yemen. Unfortunately, despite sluggish peace talks, bombings can resume at any point — Saudi Arabia could deploy its U.S.-serviced fighter jets into Yemen once more. If Congress acts to end U.S. support, the fragile pause in hostilities is much more likely to endure and move closer to an official ceasefire and peace deal.
Last December, Senator Bernie Sanders moved efforts to end U.S. support for the war by calling for a vote on his Yemen War Powers Resolution. However, the Biden administration successfully derailed the effort.3 Sanders withdrew his measure and began direct talks with the White House to find a compromise. However, Sanders promised to bring the measure back “in the near future” if discussions did not result in concrete action to end U.S. support after eight years of war.
Congress Can End U.S. Support for the War in Yemen & In Turn Pressure the Saudis to Pull Back
• U.S. support for the Saudi Air Force infrastructure enables attacks and a deadly blockade. While the Saudis have currently paused airstrikes, their brutal air and naval blockade continues. This blockade has prevented the reliable flow of food, water, and health services, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Saudi Arabia still prevents the free flow of fuel and commercial goods into the country. In 2023, an estimated 21.6 million people,4 or two-thirds of the population, will need humanitarian assistance.
• Congressional action to end U.S. support puts pressure on the Saudi government to end a calamity that has killed hundreds of thousands and driven 17 million Yemeni people5 to the brink of starvation.
• The most effective way for Congress to ensure that the United States is not engaging in Saudi-led hostilities that are part of this tragic war is to invoke its war powers.
Steps Members of Congress Can Take
• Introduce or cosponsor a Yemen War Powers Resolution, which would direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.
• Publicly call on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to lift the blockade and fully open airports and seaports. Additionally, call on President Biden to insist he use his leverage with Saudi Arabia to press for the unconditional and immediate lifting of the devastating blockade.
1. Yemen war deaths will reach 377,000 by end of the year: UN, Al Jazeera, November 23, 2021
2. Biden, Joseph, Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World, White House Briefing Room, February 4, 2021
3. Abutaleb, Yasmeen and Karoun Demirjian, White House pushes to derail Sanders measure cutting Saudi support, December 14, 2022
4. Yemen emergency, World Food Programme, November 2022
5. Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview 2023 (December 2022), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, December 20, 2022