Last Monday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution that states that the U.S. government cannot use war authorizations meant for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to provide Saudi Arabia with military aid in its war against the Houthis in Yemen.
The latest in a long line of Yemeni civil wars has been going on since 2015, and has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 civilians. It also set off a cholera epidemic that has affected 500,000 people, and killed thousands. In the war, Saudi Arabia has been actively supporting government forces against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, and the U.S. military has been supporting Saudi Arabia by providing it targeting information and refueling its planes. Both are facts that were made public in the resolution.
The resolution, which was passed by a vote of 366-30 with strong bipartisan support, explicitly states that the previous authorizations for the use of military force do not apply to Yemen. These pieces of legislation, passed in 2001 and 2003, allows the military to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq with a free hand. The resolution further states that the U.S. military can only engage in Yemen with Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-related groups, and not with the Houthis. It also called for a political solution to the civil war, in line with U.N. Resolution 2216.
In spite of the fact that the resolution was non-binding and that there is no corresponding resolution in the Senate, members of Congress who believe that only they have the authority to authorize war saw the vote as a victory. This includes members of both parties.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who is the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, proclaimed: “I’ve said for years we should sunset the 2001 AUMF. We never intended it to be a blank check.” Whlie Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who’s the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “I don’t believe our security cooperation with the Saudis triggers War Powers. But just because it does not arise under that particular statute, does not make it immune from our scrutiny.”
Some members of Congress also believe that fighting the Houthis in Yemen runs counter to the purpose of the war authorization acts. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who’s a co-sponsor of the resolution, said: “In many cases, the Saudis have aligned with Al Qaeda to fight the Houthis, undermining our very counterterrorism operations.”
What is yet to be seen is whether the resolution will have any effect on the war, or U.S. military involvement in it.