February’s Congressional passage of a historic resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen was an important step toward ending that war and curtailing US military interventionism in the Middle East more generally.
That House resolution invokes the War Power Resolution of 1973, which limits the president’s ability to undertake military interventions without Congressional approval. The Yemen resolution was propelled by a national surge of progressive grassroots activism to end US diplomatic and military participation in a war that has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The scope of destruction and human suffering is catastrophic: hundreds of thousands dead from bombing, war-related disease and malnutrition, and millions on the brink of famine without access to drinking water or medicine. The Senate, which passed a similar resolution in 2018, appears likely to pass the new House version. If both chambers approve the legislation, it would be the first time in history that both chambers passed a War Powers resolution.
But the Congressional resolutions, while welcome and overdue, are unlikely to bring an end to the war in Yemen unless deeper entanglements that have propelled decades of US interventionism in the Middle East are also addressed. At the core of the United States’ continuous involvement in the Middle East over the past century has been the combination of US military power, international oil companies, weapons manufacturers and deeply reactionary regimes and social forces which the United States has relied upon to fuel its carbon-based society and maintain its global hegemony. The longstanding and intimate US-Saudi alliance, most of all, has continuously aligned Washington with the region’s despots and against their people and their aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity.
The scope of the US-Saudi relationship goes far beyond President Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia as an arms-sales cash machine or the bromance between the president’s son in law and Saudi Arabia’s young and reckless Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It goes beyond the Saudi billions washing through American banks, real estate deals and Silicon Valley. Trump has simply doubled down on long-standing US policy: Every administration since Harry Truman has based its Middle East policy on ensuring the stability and security of the Saudi ruling family.
Ending the US role in Yemen’s war will not suddenly end that conflict or US interventionism in the region. But it could mark a turning point. Ending Yemen’s war could be a first step away from Washington’s embrace of the region’s most reactionary states and toward ending the US forever War on Terror by reversing the unconstrained militarization of US foreign policy. The challenge to dismantle the geopolitical and financial infrastructure of the US-Saudi alliance will be the next fight for the ascendant progressive movement that moved the dial on Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemenis are struggling to dig themselves out of a man-made disaster, and the challenges they face are increasing in scope and severity. They are protesting Saudi and Emirati attempts to control their future, finding employment by joining militias, salvaging food from bombed farms and markets and organizing in numerous ways to try to affect what comes after the war. People of conscious must join the fight for Yemen on the basis of justice and accountability.
The color cover photo—which marks a new look for MERIP—captures the tenacity of Yemenis fighting for their own future.