During his trip to Washington, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will discuss plenty of affairs such as the war in Yemen. President Trump’s opponents are trying to exploit this war in their battle to deprive the White House of some jurisdictions. This is all part of the old conflict between the executive and legislative institutions over the War Powers Act. Three senators are working on a resolution that obligates the president to suspend military cooperation with the Saudi kingdom in Yemen. They’ve called for voting on the resolution within the next few days but this will probably be postponed and further reviewed because the move goes beyond Yemen as its consequences affect the president’s jurisdictions and limit military cooperation with US’ allies.
This is an old controversy which some Congress members are trying to revive by using the war in Yemen to strengthen the role of the legislative authority, i.e. the Congress, at the expense of the White House, i.e. the president.
The war in Yemen is the war which concerns the US the least. US’ involvement in this war is very limited as it does not have any soldiers on the ground. This is compared with its role in Syria, Iraq and other countries where it has around 9,000 soldiers and consultants managing the war and fighting on the ground. Its air force is also involved in operations in Iraq and Syria. As for Yemen, it’s in the Americans’ interest to end the fighting and restore legitimacy as this will eliminate al-Qaeda and end Iran’s interferences via its proxy, i.e. the Houthis.
Washington’s military involvement with Riyadh and the alliance that’s fighting to restore legitimacy in Yemen is in the three fields of sharing intelligence information, providing logistical support and aerial refueling. Aerial refueling is debatable as the senators who proposed the bill claimed that aerial refueling of fighter aircrafts is like sending troops to the ground therefore it requires the Congress’ approval.
Despite the motives of these senators and of those demanding to decrease American military cooperation in Yemen, concerned American institutions, like the Pentagon, believe the Arab coalition’s war in Yemen is also important for the US and they support providing help in the three aforementioned fields.
Some Congress members believe that attempting to deprive the president of some jurisdictions and restraining his activity while cooperating with the Arab coalition in Yemen will impact US’ interests and security in general. Republican Senator Bob Corker said: “We do so much of that with our allies around the world and don’t consider that to be involved in hostilities but simply helping our allies in what they’re doing,” adding: “I think if we use the War Powers Act to call these kinds of activities hostilities, we could go down a really slippery slope.”
Finalizing the war?
Therefore, the Saudi crown prince’s upcoming meetings with the American president and Congress members will discuss key issues that concern both parties, like Yemen. Most of those who look at the war in Yemen from a humanitarian angle are oblivious of the causes of war. We must note that halting the war in Yemen will not solve the problem as the fighting will continue among local parties. Halting the war will also not help provide food and medicine or restore life because there is no efficient government.
Therefore, suspending the war without militarily or politically finalizing it will worsen the humanitarian situation there. Determination must thus be focused on ending the rebellion, restoring the government’s efficient role and executing the measures which have been internationally agreed upon – establishing a regime that governs on the basis of a new constitution and holding parliamentary elections – and which the Houthis did not abide by as they staged their coup instead.
Yemen will remain a source of threat to the world if chaos continues there and as long as there is no legitimate government or the rebellion is not eliminated. Threats from Yemen are real as terror plots against the US itself and other countries have emanated from there. Without a strong, central and legitimate government in Yemen, conditions will be suitable for sustaining terrorists.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.
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