Opponents of U.S. support for the war on Yemen have successfully added a provision to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that could curtail U.S. involvement in the bombing campaign:
Under the provision included in the Senate-passed NDAA, the secretary of State would have to certify to Congress that the Saudi coalition is undertaking efforts to end the civil war; alleviate the humanitarian disaster by increasing access to food, fuel and medicine; reduce delays in shipments of humanitarian supplies; and reduce the risk of harm to civilians.
Without the certification, the United States would be banned from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft for missions exclusively focused on the war in Yemen. The United States could still refuel coalition aircraft for certain other missions, such as those against al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The secretary could also issue a waiver allowing the refueling for national security reasons. The waiver could not be granted without submitting a detailed justification to Congress.
On Monday, a staffer told reporters the language in the final NDAA was adjusted to specify Emirati planes also would be banned from getting U.S. refueling without the certification.
Anything that could limit U.S. involvement in the war is an improvement, but I fear that conditioning U.S. assistance on this certification won’t reduce support for the war in practice. This provision leaves it up to the Secretary of State to certify that the Saudi coalition is doing all these things, and we have to assume in advance that Pompeo will do just that. The problem is that the Saudi coalition isn’t doing any of these things and it isn’t going to start doing them. There is no evidence that the Saudi coalition is making efforts to end the war, alleviate the humanitarian disaster, reduce delays in aid shipments, or reduce risk of harm to civilians.
On the contrary, the Saudi coalition is currently in the process of escalating the war with its Hodeidah offensive. The coalition continues its blockade and diverts and delays ships coming to Yemen. The Saudis and their allies continue to strike civilian targets with the same blatant disregard for civilian life that they have shown throughout the conflict. The administration has given them carte blanche for the last eighteen months, and there is no reason to think that will change because of this provision. This has always been the flaw in the Young-Shaheen approach, and it is why the Senate should have adopted the Sanders-Lee resolution earlier this year.
The White House rejects the addition of this provision to the bill just as they have opposed every measure that would restrict or end U.S. involvement in and support for the war. If there is a loophole that allows U.S. support for the war on Yemen to continue, this administration is going to take advantage of it regardless of the facts. That is why the only way that Congress can rein in the coalition and end U.S. complicity in their crimes is to cut off all military assistance at once. Anything less than that won’t reduce U.S. involvement in the war, and it won’t help the Yemeni civilians that need the U.S. to halt the coalition’s war on their country.