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Yemen war: Progressive activists are poised to get a big foreign policy win. It's been an uphill battle.



The House is expected to pass a resolution Wednesday, February 13, to end US support for the war in Yemen.

The war in Yemen, the war against Yemen, and the war on Yemen, directed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS, as he is commonly referred to in Washington), has killed more than 50,000 people, according to one independent estimate, and has left more than 20 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance [19659003] The US helps the Saudi-led coalition, which also includes the United Arab Emirates and several other Gulf Arab and African countries, by providing them with intelligence, selling arms and ammunition, and, until late last year, fueling war planes. That means the US is partly culpable for the death and destruction of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels ̵

1; and even civilians. In fact, a coalition warplane bombed a school bus full of children last August with an American-made bomb – killing at least 40 of them.

The Yemen resolution invokes the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR) power to direct a president to remove troops involved in "hostilities" abroad without a declaration of war or a specific statutory authorization. "It is not only a clear rebuke of Saudi war efforts, but also a clear check on executive power; if the US wants to be involved in a war in Yemen, Congress has to declare it

But activists are still worried that the final resolution might not carry the full weight that its original authors intended. Late Monday night, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), who co-sponsored the resolution, offered a resolution that would not "disrupt … sharing of intelligence between the United States and any foreign country if the President determines such sharing is appropriate. "The amendment will be getting a vote as well.

Democratic leaders have been generally supportive of the Yemen resolution (Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is a co-sponsor, as was Nancy Pelosi last year, before she was speaker). But recently, progressives say Democratic leaders have tackled the right of foreign policy, and activists are feeling a lack of enthusiasm towards the resolution. Hoyer accidentally voiced support for the Buck amendment in a private meeting with Democratic legislators, and later clarified that he did not support it.

"There is a difference between leadership being supportive and leadership leading," Stephen Miles, the director of Win Without War, a progressive group that advocates against military intervention abroad, told me

Just last year, they let the same Yemen resolution failed on the House floor, seemingly unnecessarily (although a similar measure passed in the last GOP-controlled Senate). Pelosi also voiced support in January for Trump's call for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to step down. And more recently, Democratic leadership gave a strongly worded condemnation of Minnesota progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar's tweet about the influence of domestic pro-Israel lobbying groups on US views towards Israel.

There is a lot of unresolved tension points in the Democratic Party on foreign policy, and while progressive grassroots energy has gone a long way toward defining domestic agenda it would like to see from Democratic leaders, a clearer progressive foreign policy agenda is now beginning to emerge as well.

Progressives are still skeptical of Democratic leadership on Yemen

On Tuesday, progressive groups Demand Progress, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Win Without War have sent Democratic leadership a letter calling on them it is more aggressive when it comes to keeping Democrats in line on supporting the resolution and voting against the amendment.

"Better safe than sorry, given [Democratic] Leadership's failure to whip during other recent votes on US involvement in Yemen war , the recent Democratic Alignment with Trump and Bolton on issues like Venezuela, and the influx of new members who may not be thoroughly versed on Yemen dynamics, "said David Segal, the executive director of Demand Progress,

As of Wednesday morning , however, Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn's (D-SC) office had not clarified how aggressively they would push to keep Democrats in line on this issue.

Progressives want to see House Democrats stand united behind the Yemen resolution, not only to influence a strong vote in the Senate, but also to send a clear signal to the Senate. White House on Congress' position on Saudi policy in Yemen. Something like Buck's amendment could blow a major hole in their push to cut US-Saudi ties over Yemen, and there is concern among progressive lawmakers that an innocuous-sounding amendment like intelligence-sharing with foreign allies could convince some more moderate

That said, that the war powers resolution is getting a vote at all the signals and a significant shift within the Democratic Party – one closely linked to the shock and outrage over the death of Saudi journalist, dissident, and American resident Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was murdered and allegedly dismembered last October in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. Lawmakers, many of whom have historically backed the US-Saudi relationship, are angry about the killing. In October, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and the staunch Trump ally, said he was "completely betrayed" by Riyadh

Since then, the White House, top administration officials, and Saudi lobbyists, who are well established in Washington, working hard to build support for continued US involvement in Yemen war.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued that stopping US support could "increase civilian casualties, jeopardize cooperation with our counter-terrorism partners, and reduce our influence with the Saudis – all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis." However, last October

And Washington foreign policy experts continue to argue that the United States should use its support for Yemen's war as a leverage to persuade the

Democrats generally do not have as much focus and unity on foreign policy as they do with domestic issues like immigration or gun control. "We saw muddled messaging on Venezuela, we saw muddled messaging on North Korea."

"We saw muddled messaging on Venezuela, we saw muddled messaging on North Korea. Unfortunately, some folks in leadership coopted a little by Kevin McCarthy and others on the case with Ilhan Omar, "Miles said. "Where we are on Yemen is that we have created the conditions that they are on the right side."


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