In a resounding rebuke to the Pentagon, President Trump and the Saudi crown, the Senate voted 56-41 on Thursday to end United States participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where an estimated 14 million people are on the brink of starvation. It’s the first time in history that the Senate has approved a resolution under the War Powers Act to withdraw US forces from foreign hostilities.
The vote is a major victory for peace activists who have lobbied Congress to curb US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen since the war escalated in 2015. However, it may not be enough to stop the US participation in the conflict, at least not right away. Republican House leaders doomed the war powers resolution in the lower chamber, and activists are pushing Democrats to move quickly when they assume the House majority in January.
“Why wait, when a child is dying every 10 minutes? Why wait another day?” asked Kate Gould, the legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, in an interview.
As the Senate prepared to vote, news came of a breakthrough in the UN-brokered peace talks happening in Sweden, between the Saudi-backed government in Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Negotiators from both sides of the conflict agreed to a ceasefire around the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which is crucial for delivering food and aid, and an exchange of more than 15,000 war prisoners by January 20, according to reports.
Hassan El-Tayyab, a co-director of Just Foreign Policy, who has lobbied Congress on Yemen, said the Senate vote is “absolutely” having an effect on the peace talks.
“The pressure we are putting on Congress, and as a result, the pressure Congress is putting on Saudi Arabia, is a huge piece of leverage for the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to use when he sits down with the Saudis and Houthis in Sweden,” El-Tayyab told Truthout.