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Operation Determined Storm - Yemen

Supreme Leader Khamenei and his regime knew what their goals were: Preserving their rule, expanding Iranian hegemony across the region, and harming the United States and Israel. That is what they wanted to do. That is why Iran exported violence, intimidation, and coercion. That is why Iran expands its ballistic missile program. That is why Iran uses proxies, such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and other Shia militias, along with cyber attacks and other terrorism, to meddle in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, and beyond.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE face a significant threat from Houthi rebels armed with ballistic missiles, apparently with the technical assistance of the Iranians. There have reportedly been dozens of attacks against Saudi Arabia since the spring of 2015, including against civilian targets like the international airport in Riyadh, which was attacked in December 2017.

The support the United States provides to the Saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling over the Red Sea, contributes to greater precision in their air campaign and actually leads to fewer civilian casualties. Withdrawing U.S. support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian casualties, and it would signal that we are not serious about containing Iran or its proxies. The Houthi presence would continue threatening shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Iranian missiles would continue threatening Riyadh, and Iran would be further emboldened.

“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on 07 April 2015. “As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries.” U.S. military assistance is being coordinated through an Arab-led joint planning cell, which includes about a dozen American servicemembers.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed the U.S. is supplying its Arab allies as the fight in Yemen rages. “It’s a combination of preexisting orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions,” he told reporters. Warren was unable to provide details about the types of weapons being delivered. “I don’t have a listing specifically of a shopping list, so to speak, but we’re working very closely with our partners there to get them what they need,” he said. The U.S. military is also providing intelligence and logistical support to the Arab war effort. The Pentagon agreed to a Saudi request to provide aerial refueling for its jets that are conducting the bombing campaign, although no such refueling operations had been carried out thus far, according to Warren.

U.S. intelligence support to the operations did not include assistance with targeting, according to Pentagon officials. But in December 2017, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis stated, “We have gone in to be very—to be helpful where we can in identifying how you do target analysis and how you make certain you hit the right thing.”

The Saudis have come under criticism for allegedly inflicting a large number of civilian casualties in their bombing campaign. Warren said the U.S. military has talked to the Saudis about the issue. “This is something that we expect all of our coalition partners to be mindful of,” he said. “We want all the combatants to adhere to international standards, which include the maximum amount of mitigation and reduction of civilian casualties that’s possible.”

The refueling of aircraft over the Red Sea does not equate to introducing U.S. forces into hostilities nor does intelligence sharing. U.S. forces are not transporting Saudi forces into combat within Yemen by air, land, or sea. The Department of Defense and Secretary Mattis have made clear that U.S. forces are not engaged in exchanges of fire with hostile forces. According to the Acting General Counsel of the Department of Defense: "The limited military and intelligence support that the United States is providing to the [KSA-led] coalition does not involve any introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities for purposes of the War Powers Resolution or of section 1013 of the Department of State Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1984 and 1985."

By early 2017 Saudi Arabian coalition jets bombing Houthi rebel sites in Yemen increasingly turned to U.S. Air Force tankers for refueling support almost two years after the conflict began. Since April 2015, the Air Force had logged 1,778 tanker sorties for the operation, Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com on 15 February 2017. That included 1,069 over the past year, an increase of 360, or 50 percent, from the 709 in the previous period.

By 2018 the brutal war in Yemen had raged for 3 years. At least 10,000 civilians had lost their lives in this conflict. More than 8 million Yemenis were on the brink of starvation. The worst cholera outbreak in modern history had afflicted over 1 million people, including over 600,000 children. Millions more were displaced from their homes. As the years wear on, the cycle of desperation, destruction, and death continues unabated.

The Houthis and their Iranian backers bear great responsibility for the civilian toll of this war. However, the Saudi-led coalition, with U.S. military support, continued to conduct hundreds of airstrikes each month. According to the United Nations, almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths are the result of these airstrikes.

The US administration claimed U.S. military support for the coalition, in the form of aerial refueling, munitions sales, and targeting assistance, provides leverage in the conflict; yet the Defense Department appeared to know disturbingly little about how U.S. military assistance is used on the battlefield, including whether our refueling enables the bombing of civilians. Most critically, with both sides at a total impasse, the prospect of a political settlement is farther from reach now than at the beginning of this devastating war.

This complicity was fueled by President Trump's unquestioning embrace of the Saudi monarchy, and his apparent inability to use US leverage to place meaningful restraints on the Saudi attacks in Yemen. In addition, more than a year after his inauguration, the President has not put forward nominees to fill key diplomatic posts that would be responsible for addressing this conflict, including the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs or the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has alienated our counterparts at the United Nations. In action and in deed, President Trump has all but ensured the onslaught in Yemen will continue.

On 28 February 2018 Senator Bernard Sanders, [I-VT]introduced S.J.Res.54 - "A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress". This joint resolution directed the President to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen, except those engaged in operations directed at Al Qaeda, within 30 days unless: (1) the President requests and Congress authorizes a later date, or (2) a declaration of war or specific authorization for the use of the Armed Forces has been enacted.

Section 8(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1547(c)) defines the introduction of United States Armed Forces to include “the assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities,” and activities that the United States is conducting in support of the Saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling and targeting assistance, fall within this definition.

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, asked Congress not to interfere with the US' role, warning restrictions could "increase civilian casualties, jeopardise cooperation with our partners on counterterrorism, and reduce our influence with the Saudis - all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis".

As stated in a letter sent by Secretary Mattis to congressional leadership in March 2018, "Since 2015, the United States has provided limited support to Saudi-led coalition military operations to restore the U.N.-recognized government of Yemen and preserve Saudi territorial integrity from Houthi aligned forces in Yemen." Moreover, according to Secretary Mattis, U.S. forces are not authorized to use force against the Houthis but do support the Saudi-led coalition with "intelligence sharing, military advice, and logistical support, including air-to-air refueling."

Secretary Mattis also expressed concern that withdrawal of our support would "embolden Iran to increase its support to the Houthis, enabling further ballistic missile strikes on Saudi Arabia and threatening vital shipping lanes in the Red Sea, thereby raising the risk of a regional conflict."

The commander of U.S. Central Command, General Votel, testified before the Armed Services Committee that our support to the Saudi-led coalition is "primarily defensive" in nature and focused on the Iranian-supported ballistic missile threat to Saudi Arabia that originates in Yemen, maritime threats to international shipping in the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea, the defense of Saudi Arabia's southern border, and counterterrorism. However, General Votel also acknowledged that when the United States provides aerial refueling to coalition aircraft, we do not know where those aircraft then go; therefore, they could be going to conduct offensive strikes against Houthi targets, which may result in civilian casualties.

The Department of Defense told the Congress that engagement by U.S. military personnel had resulted in the introduction of a "no-strike" list. That is a process which actually puts targets off-limits and ensures that pilots and others understand those targets. They also caused a cessation -- an ending -- of the use of cluster munitions by Saudi-led forces and the formation of a body to investigate noncombatant casualties.

An editorial in the New York Times 20 March 2018 stated: "The United States initially deployed forces to combat Al Qaeda in Yemen under post-Sept. 11 congressional authorization measures. But Congress never specifically approved military involvement in the Saudi-Houthi war even though the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Act give lawmakers a role.... For too long, Congress has abdicated its role as America prolonged its stay in some wars and expanded into others. And presidents have been too reluctant to share these crucial decisions with lawmakers."

Normally the Senate would have hearings and pass legislation the committee of jurisdiction - what is called regular order. the War Powers Resolution gives expedited consideration. It gives the committee 10 days to consider that. The committee had more than twice that time to consider that, and the committee had not put anything out. The sponsors of the resolution used a very entrepreneurial method to reach into the War Powers Act and pull out something that was unintended for this purpose. The vote was on a decision to discharge the Yemen issue from the committee without the committee taking any action, without the committee having any hearings. This is a vote to skip the Foreign Relations Committee, and set precedent on the floor in this entrepreneurial way of bringing legislation to the floor.

The vote on the Motion to Table the Motion to Discharge S. J. Res. 54 was held 20 March 2018, with 55 yeas and 44 nays. A yes vote was to kill the resolution on the rationale there are no American boots on the ground in Yemen. The rare Senate vote addressing US war powers failed to shut down US military involvement in Yemen.

“Three years on, Yemen’s conflict shows no real signs of abating, and all sides continue to inflict horrific suffering on the civilian population. Schools and hospitals lie in ruins, thousands have lost their lives and millions are displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid,” Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said 23 March 2018.

“There is extensive evidence that irresponsible arms flows to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have resulted in enormous harm to Yemeni civilians. But this has not deterred the USA, the UK and other states, including France, Spain and Italy, from continuing transfers of billions of dollars’ worth of such arms. As well as devastating civilian lives, this makes a mockery of the global Arms Trade Treaty.”

Since the start of the conflict, Amnesty International documented 36 coalition airstrikes that appeared to have violated international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes. These resulted in 513 civilian deaths (including at least 157 children) and 379 civilian injuries.

The Huthi armed group and anti-Huthi forces have killed or injured civilians when they indiscriminately fired explosive munitions with wide-area effects into residential areas. The city of Ta’iz in particular experienced intensive attacks with mortars and artillery shells as recently as January and February 2018. In Sana’a and other areas they control, the Huthis and their allies have continued a wave of arbitrary arrests and detentions of their perceived opponents. Scores of men and women have been subjected to enforced disappearances, with some receiving harsh sentences after grossly unfair trials.

Two senior US officials publicly called for a ceasefire in Yemen on 31 October 2018. But apparently US allies are not expected to be the first to stop the violence, even if Washington has the clout to make them. Hours apart, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis rolled out statements supporting a UN-sponsored ceasefire in Yemen. The country is currently devastated and on the brink of famine as the US-backed coalition of Arab nations, led by Saudi Arabia, fight a war with Houthi rebels.

"The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Pompeo said. "Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen." A similar sentiment was voiced by Mattis, who was addressing a forum in Washington. He called on all sides to take meaningful steps toward a ceasefire and negotiations in the next 30 days. "We've got to move toward a peace effort here. And we can't say we're going to do it sometime in the future," the defense secretary said.

The statements from US officials have little to do with stopping the violence in Yemen, Colin Cavell, associate professor of political science at Bluefield State College, told RT. "If they really wanted to end this conflict, they could just cut off sending weapons to Saudi Arabia, quit refueling their planes that are bombing Yemen, and call off the blockade," he said. "They could cut off it tomorrow, if they wanted to."

Cavell believed that calls for a ceasefire are simply part of the Trump administration's attempt to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), who is widely regarded as the architect of the Yemeni intervention. The Saudi de facto ruler was under fire over the murder of his critic in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which became a relatively hot political issue in the US – so much that some American lawmakers called for imposing personal sanctions against him.

Peace talks aimed at ending the war in Yemen have been set for early December in Sweden, with Houthi rebels, the UN-recognised government and a Saudi-led coalition all expected to take part, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said 21 November 2018. Mattis said the Saudis and United Arab Emirates – who have backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the brutal three-year-old war – "are fully on board, by the way". The defense secretary said "It looks like very, very early in December, up in Sweden, we'll see both the Houthi rebel side and the UN-recognised government, President Hadi's government, will be up there".

A bipartisan proposal to block any further US military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen is one step closer to being adopted, after the Senate voted 63-37 on 28 November 2018 to allow a floor vote on the resolution. Many of the lawmakers, from both parties, were concerned not only about the humanitarian calamity caused by the fighting in Yemen but also about Donald Trump's reluctance to punish the Saudis for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The legislation’s early successes have been interpreted as a kick in the teeth to Donald Trump’s unapologetic support for Riyadh, but some questioned the timing of the proposal – and whether it will have any long-term effect on Washington’s deep-rooted ties to the Kingdom. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – “someone who was known to people in the elite circles in Washington, DC” – sparked the Senate’s indignation Khashoggi’s brutal killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has developed into a “major scandal” that endangers the US’ “multi-billion dollar arms sales with Saudi Arabia,” Colin Cavell, associate professor of political science at Bluefield State College, said.

S.J. Resolution 54, "a joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress," acquired enough votes to pass the Senate on 13 December 2018. In an effort to refute US President Donald Trump's flaky stance about the Saudi Arabian crown prince's involvement in the murder of deceased Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the Senate voted Thursday on a resolution to end US support for the Yemen War. The resolution only needed a simple majority to pass. The final vote was 56 voting in favor of the bill and 41 voting against. Technically, Congress never authorized the use of the military in Yemen. The resolution forces Trump to withdraw any US forces involved in the conflict within 30 days.

The Republican leadership in Congress moved to stall until 2019 the broadly supported congressional resolution aimed at ending the United States' support for Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign in Yemen. The move came as part of a tight procedural vote on 12 December 2018 in the House of Representatives on an $837bn, five-year agriculture bill. Tucked within the rules governing the bill was a provision that the War Powers Resolution, which fast-tracks certain bills, won't apply to any resolution related to Yemen for the rest of this Congress.

The US Senate defied Donald Trump 13 March 2019 and voted to cut off support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen. Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans sided with Democrats in passing the measure 54-46. It now went to the House, which approved its own similar measure, only to have the process stall over a procedural issue. Trump had threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, saying it would undermine the counterterrorism fight.

The measure demands Trump “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen within 30 days.” If it passes in the House, it would be the first time in history Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says Congress determines when the U.S. goes to war, not the president.

On 04 April 2019 the US House passed a Resolution directing removal of US forces from Yemen. According to reports, the 247-176 vote, which saw 16 Republicans join Democrats, invoked the seldom-used War Powers Resolution to restrict the president’s executive power to wage war without congressional approval. The US House vote set up the second veto of Donald Trump's presidency. "The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to determining when and where our military is engaged in hostilities", Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated.

Donald Trump vetoed the bill Congress passed to end the United State's military assistance in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. In a break with the president, Congress voted for the first time to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try and stop US involvement in a foreign conflict. House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46.

But Trump vetoed the measure on Wednesday with the Congress lacking the votes to override him. "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," said Trump in a statement.

Aid groups estimated by early 2019 that as many as 60,000 civilians had been killed in the war and as many as 85,000 children starved to death. Yemen was at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There were as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis were more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.

President Joe Biden announced 04 February 2021 the United States was ending support for the five-year Saudi-led military offensive in Yeme.“This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict had created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden announced that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales”.

Congress had repeatedly invoked its war powers authority by voting to end U.S. participation in this war via War Powers Resolutions and amendments to the FY2019, 2020, and 2021 National Defense Authorization Acts, including provisions that mandated an end to intelligence sharing and logistical support for airstrikes. Most recently, Congress also passed a provision in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act requiring detailed reporting regarding U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s de-facto blockade of Yemen’s air and seaports. Bipartisan majorities of Congress had also voted to block several weapons sales approved by the Trump Administration over concerns about the war in Yemen.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2021 13:36:49 ZULU