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Biden, Like Trump Before Him, Derails Effort to End U.S. Support for Saudi War in Yemen

StoryDecember 16, 2022
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A new UNICEF report finds that over 11,000 children have been killed or injured in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen since 2015. A six-month ceasefire between warring parties expired in October. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders withdrew a Senate resolution Tuesday that would have ended U.S. support for the war, following pressure from the White House. Sanders said he would bring the resolution back if they could not reach an agreement. Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni American assistant professor at Michigan State University and a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute, says many Democrats who decried U.S. support for the Saudi coalition when it was seen as “Trump’s war” have now fallen silent despite the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. “The situation on the ground is so volatile that this War Powers Resolution is absolutely essential,” says Al-Adeimi.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to the crisis in Yemen.

A new UNICEF report finds over 11,000 children have been killed or injured in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen since 2015. A six-month ceasefire between warring parties expired in October.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders withdrew an expected vote on his Yemen War Powers Resolution Tuesday night after coming under pressure from the White House. He said he’d bring the resolution back if they could not reach an agreement on ending U.S. support for the war.

We go now to Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni American assistant professor at Michigan State University, nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute.

It’s great to have you with us. Can you respond to what took place this week, what you think needs to happen in Yemen right now?

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: Thanks so much for having me, Amy.

So, really, this is a culmination of years of trying to work with the administration to end their war in Yemen, support for the war in Yemen. As you recall, President Biden was very adamant about ending U.S. involvement when he took office, except that he didn’t really fulfill this promise and his obligation to end the war. Since the Biden administration took office, they’ve been kind of operating under the assumption that whatever support they’re providing the Saudis is defensive and not offensive, but they never really clarified to Congress what this means.

And so, we’ve been trying to work to try to push another War Powers Resolution, which, as you recall, did pass when this war was seen as Trump’s war in 2019. It passed Congress in a bipartisan way, and it was vetoed by Trump. And so, the idea here was that to say to the Biden administration that “If you’re serious about ending this war, end it. If not, here’s this bill that would reassert Congress’s authority to declare war” — which they haven’t — “and to end all forms of U.S. support,” which currently includes, you know, logistics and intelligence and spare parts and maintenance. So, it’s changed since 2019, but they still continue to provide the Saudi-led coalition with various forms of military support, including also training of pilots and soldiers and whatnot.

So, you know, it’s essential. And although there’s — you know, things have changed in this past year with a truce that lasted for a few months and then ended, and there hasn’t been any Saudi-led airstrikes since April, the situation on the ground is still volatile that this War Powers Resolution is absolutely essential to make sure that if there was a resumption of airstrikes, then the U.S. would not continue to support the Saudi-led coalition in whatever way they needed, just as they had been doing over the last almost eight years.

AMY GOODMAN: We spoke to Ryan Grim, The Intercept's D.C. correspondent, and it was right before Senator Sanders withdrew his resolution. And he said Sanders never expected it to pass, but if like 40 Democratic senators supported it, it would be a sign to MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, that he'd be in trouble if he broke the ceasefire, even if it has expired. So what does it mean that it’s been withdrawn?

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: So, I’m not quite sure if we would have had the votes or not. I mean, it’s really surprising, because, like I said, many of the people in Biden’s administration, people like Samantha Power and Jake Sullivan, back in 2019 were saying that we really should end this war, and we really should try to pass this WPR, even though they supported the war efforts during the Obama administration. But they’re silent now, and we have Democrats who have essentially taken on the same position. But we still had an opportunity to pass this.

And I understand that Senator Sanders started to get pressure from the White House, who threatened to veto the bill. So, President Biden essentially was threatening to veto the bill, even though he’s been saying for the last couple years that he wants to end U.S. involvement in the war. So, the fact that he withdrew it, I think, is — you know, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed by this outcome. I think the effort put forth by, you know, antiwar coalition over the last couple years has been definitely the right strategy to try to push for this WPR. The WPR is one of many legal strategies —

AMY GOODMAN: War Powers Resolution.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: Yes, the War Powers Resolution. It’s one of many legal strategies to try to end U.S. involvement in the war. But, you know, here we are now in December, and we’re going to have a Republican-controlled House next year. And I’m not quite sure how we are going to try to pass this again.

But it would have certainly centered Yemen again into the conversation, which has been put on the back burner since, essentially, the war in Ukraine. You know, it’s easy to blame another entity for their attack on a sovereign country, like Ukraine, and yet, in the case of Yemen, it’s really the opposite. You know, Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen, a sovereign country, and the entire world went to support them and continue to support them, despite the unequal balance of power, this asymmetrical warfare and the immense casualties on humanitarian — on Yemeni lives over the last several years.

We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are starving to death, who have starved to death already or have been killed by the violence, millions of people who still rely on aid. The blockade is still in effect, although parts of it have been partially lifted. You know, Yemenis still continue to suffer despite the ceasefire, because, you know, bombs weren’t killing most people. The blockade has been killing most people, and continues to kill most people in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has not suffered the consequences of this war. They’ve been engaging in this war in Yemen. Them and the UAE have been occupying parts of Yemen and using its resources.

And yet, here in the U.S., we’re not able to face our own complicity after all of these years. We’re not able to say, “Well, we really should not be engaging in these war crimes.” You know, Senator Murphy and Senator Sanders spoke on the floor, and they talked about any form of U.S. support is not acceptable — any form, whether it’s intelligence sharing or logistics training or, you know, weapon deals. None of this should be happening. And yet here we are, all of these years later, unable to come to the conclusion that we really should be ending U.S. complicity. You know, this is the bare minimum that we can do, and we’re not there yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Shireen Al-Adeimi, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Yemeni American assistant professor at Michigan State University, nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute.

That does it for our show. A very happy birthday to Renée Feltz! Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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Yemen: Biden to End U.S. Offensive Support for Saudi-Led Assault, But Will the War Actually End?

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