RNA - It is widely expected that both houses of Congress will successfully pass War Powers challenges to the Yemen War, though they say the exact timing may be unclear because of the government’s shutdown. Even then, there is an expectation that President Trump will veto the measure. This would be a politically difficult veto for the president, as the War Powers Act is explicitly meant to give Congress oversight of US wars, and a veto would effectively be the president overriding Congress on refusing to back a war that was illegally launched in the first place.
This is while the only way out is a renewed call for political negotiations, playing on the fact that the Yemeni factions want peace. For that call to be effective, the US government is required to shift its present course of actions with a three-pronged strategy:
- Back the ceasefire in order to allow humanitarian assistance into the country.
Financing aid while continuing the air campaign is as a cynical manoeuvre by the US and its Saudi allies that do not know where to bomb next. For this aid to reach vulnerable populations, both the US and Saudi Arabia must respect the ceasefire and stop bombing the war-torn country.
- Allow the UN as a mediator and give up on hosting one-sided political talks in Riyadh or elsewhere in Europe. Riyadh is clearly no acceptable destination for Ansarullah, and would likely be contentious for almost all other Yemeni factions. Instead, the US should capitalize on the impartial stance taken by the UN toward the conflict and ask them to facilitate a dialogue – without any interference.
- Take responsibility for the destruction and help the UN in its reconstruction and development vision for Yemen.
If the US wants to truly demonstrate a “Yemen resolve to act alone,” it needs to show that Yemenis can rebuild their country devastated by this illegal conflict - one that, unlike war-torn Libya, Syria, or Iraq, might be salvageable.
The US should build upon the UN resolution to secure and finance a long-term reconstruction plan for Yemen. The plan should be based on the ultimate objective of integrating Yemen within the UN, making use of its human and natural resources and capitalizing on its strategic coastline.
To that end, the US government must not write a check to the Saudis and leave Riyadh to sort Yemen out on their own. Yemen’s experience has shown time and again that Saudi Arabia and its allies are unable to build state capacity or to provide effective long-term development - a failure that helped bring Yemen to the brink of crisis in the first place. Whatever international reconstruction vision emerges, the US is responsible to be part of it, and should remain part of its development and implementation long term.
According to Fars News Agancy, the US has a particular responsibility at the UN too. The decision by the UN to press forward with a ceasefire resolution, however limited, was a welcome show of determination. But it needs to be carried forward, and supported by national actions, including the ending of all US support for the war strategy and resumption of reconstruction efforts.
In this deliberate man-made crisis there is no firewall between a political process to end the fighting and the humanitarian catastrophe that the world does witness day in, day out. Unless there is outside pressure of a substantial kind on Saudi Arabia and its allies, civilians will continue to endure terrible suffering. While Saudi and Emirati airstrikes are the primary cause of civilian deaths, many more have died from the impact of the US-backed blockade: drought, disease, starvation and preventable deaths.
In summation, those who turned Yemen into a failed state are now required under international law to take responsibility for its reconstruction and peace efforts. They must help the UN to improve humanitarian and commercial access into and around Yemen, including the full functioning of all ports and Sana’a airport. They must help the UN to repair public service infrastructure such as water provision and hospitals, which has been damaged during the US-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes. They must also pay for all the damages they have caused to the country.
Yemen is a complex society, but the choices facing the Saudis, the Americans and their allies now are simple. They cannot continue the failed war, see more people die, and watch malign geopolitical consequences grow. The people of Yemen and all warring factions want peace and unity. The Saudis, the Americans and their allies must stop the protracted war and give international reconstruction efforts a chance to make a difference.