Congress’ Deadline for Yemen Certification Has Arrived
Tomorrow is the deadline for Secretary Pompeo to determine whether the Saudi coalition has met the requirements laid out by Congress in Section 1290 of the National Defense Authorization Act. If he cannot certify that they have fulfilled all of the conditions listed in that section, the law requires that U.S. stop refueling coalition planes in their operations against the Houthis in Yemen. The Yemen Peace Project has reviewed the evidence and concluded that the coalition completely fails on three counts and only partly meets the requirement on the fourth:
The Secretary of State cannot plausibly certify that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking appropriate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, reduce harm to civilians, or respect UNVIM, and can only tenuously certify that the coalition is supporting some diplomatic efforts to end the civil war.
If Secretary Pompeo certifies Saudi and UAE compliance with these requirements, or if he otherwise waives the certification on national security grounds, the Yemen Peace Project urges members of Congress to introduce standalone legislation withholding funds for US refueling of coalition aircraft.
As I said last week, Pompeo cannot honestly review the record and choose to certify that the coalition has met Congress’ conditions. The president has already included this section among those parts of the bill that he intends to ignore. I assume that the Trump administration will do whatever it can to evade the restrictions that Congress is trying to place on U.S. support for the war on Yemen. Members of Congress need to be prepared to fight back when that happens. An op-ed from Sens. Shaheen and Young earlier today suggests that this might happen. The senators write:
For the sake of the United States’ interests and our humanitarian principles, we hope the administration complies with the law and submits a good-faith certification by Wednesday. If that does not happen, support for the coalition in Congress may reach a breaking point as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis deteriorates further.
The administration will either ignore Congress’ conditions entirely, lie about coalition behavior to justify a phony certification, or invoke a waiver to get around the law. Congress cannot count on the administration to withdraw support for the Saudi coalition, and it is up to members of Congress to put an end to that support on their own. That will mean voting to halt all U.S. involvement in the coalition’s war effort, and that means pulling all military assistance and arms sales to the Saudis and Emiratis. The U.S. should never have been involved in this war, and Congress never authorized that involvement. It falls now to Congress to put a stop to this indefensible policy because no one else will.
Update: As I feared, Secretary Pompeo has ignored the evidence and certified that the Saudis and Emiratis are meeting the conditions required by Congress:
It’s official. Pompeo certifies that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.” Support for war effort in Yemen will continue. pic.twitter.com/OEspsU8bk9
— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) September 12, 2018
This should teach members of Congress that this administration will use any loophole they are given to continue their indefensible support for the war on Yemen. Congress must vote to halt all military assistance and arms sales to the Saudis and the UAE.