Washington, DC – A bipartisan group of US politicians pledged to advance legislation in Congress that would block further support by the American military for the Saudi-UAE war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The measure enjoys broad support among Democrats and a number of key Republicans but would face a likely veto by President Donald Trump suggesting delays and high-level negotiations with the White House ahead.
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Politicians supporting the measure believe they can generate enough support in Congress to overturn a presidential veto which would force Trump to apply pressure on Riyadh.
“When Yemenis see ‘Made in USA’ on the bombs that are killing them, it tells them the United States of America is responsible for this war,” Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference.
“This is not a message the United States should be sending to the world. The United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic Saudi regime with a dangerous and irresponsible military policy.”
A similar anti-war measure was passed by the Senate by a 56-41 margin in December as the prior session of Congress was winding down.
Advocates now plan to push the bill in the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives to generate momentum for action in the Senate, where it must be approved again over likely opposition from Republican leaders.
“The preference is to start this in the House, get a big vote in the House and then bring it over to the Senate,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who has been a critic of the US role in Yemen, told Al Jazeera.
US military had provided crucial aerial refuelling for Saudi-UAE jets that were also using US-made weapons to inflict devastating attacks on Yemen.
On November 10, the US Defense Department said it was suspending aerial refuelling and the US pressed Saudi Arabia to agree to a UN-brokered ceasefire.
A US-based humanitarian group, International Rescue Committee, warned on January 30 that the ceasefire was breaking down as clashes between Houthi rebels and government forces increased.
“The mere fact that we are providing mid-air refuelling for combat missions going in and out of Yemen, the fact that we are doing target-selection assistance, we are providing reconnaissance assistance, intelligence information and otherwise providing combat support for this war effort does, in fact, mean we were involved in a war,” Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, told reporters.
“That needs to be authorised by Congress. It cannot be done by the executive branch alone.”
Congress has never authorised US military operations in Yemen, which were first undertaken by former President Barack Obama and then continued by Trump.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented at least 10,000 deaths since the war began in March 2015, but many human rights groups say the total number of fatalities could be as much as five times higher than the WHO’s estimate. The country is also on the brink of famine.