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Yemen war: US lawmakers urged to support resolution ending US military aid to Saudis

Legislation would block US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, following collapse of truce
Pro-government Yemeni troops display placards calling for an offensive against the Houthis in the city of Taiz, on 3 December 2022 (AFP)

More than 100 national organisations signed a letter on Wednesday calling on US lawmakers to support a war powers resolution aimed at blocking US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

“It’s been almost two months since the UN-brokered truce in Yemen expired, violence on the ground is escalating, and there is still no formal mechanism preventing a return to all-out war,” the letter said.

“In an effort to renew this truce and further incentivize Saudi Arabia to stay at the negotiating table, we urge you to bring the war powers resolutions to end US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen,” the letter added.

Yemen descended into civil war in 2014, when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh and a coalition of regional allies, chiefly the UAE, intervened in March 2015 to push the Houthis back.

Seven years of fighting have failed to dislodge the Iran-aligned Houthis who control northern Yemen and about 80 percent of the country’s population, along with major urban centres.

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The Saudi -led coalition imposed an economic blockade on Houthi-controlled areas, including a sea and air blockade, worsening economic conditions for millions of Yemenis.

Truce breakdown

A UN-brokered ceasefire that took effect in April brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October. Though fighting largely remains on hold, there have been some flare-ups.

In October, Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked a southern oil port, targeting a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, the Nissos Kea, at the port of Ash Shihr, about 550km south of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.

Foreign weapons have continued to pour into Yemen. Earlier this month, the US said it seized one million rounds of ammunition along with rocket fuses and propellant being smuggled on a fishing trawler from Iran to the war-torn country.

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“All agree that the Houthis share blame for much of the violence and human rights abuses in Yemen today. Continued US support for Saudi Arabia’s war, however, furthers the Houthi narrative about foreign intervention in Yemen…undermining America’s ability to act as a credible mediator between the warring parties,” the letter said.

Biden made ending US support for Saudi Arabia’s war campaign a central feature of his foreign policy as a presidential candidate. In 2021, he announced Washington would end support for Riyadh’s offensive operations.

The announcement was initially received in a positive light by progressive members of Biden’s party but has left open questions as to what "offensive support" constitutes.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, told The Intercept on Monday that he hoped to move the legislation up for a vote next week. Sanders said he believed he had the votes necessary to pass the resolution.

Ties between Riyadh and Washington have sunk to historic lows, with differences on the war in Ukraine, and recently, energy policy.

In October, Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for the US to freeze all aspects of cooperation with Saudi Arabia, following the kingdom’s support for an Opec+ oil price cut.

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