As President-elect Joe Biden builds out his administration by choosing and considering some people who have progressives alarmed on a foreign policy front, more than 80 organizations joined together on Monday for a letter urging the incoming president to finally end U.S. support for the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.
"It's time for America to reclaim its moral compass and withdraw completely from any involvement in the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen."
—Hal Ginsberg, Our Revolution
"Ending U.S. participation in the war in Yemen and restoring vital humanitarian aid to address the war's impact on the Yemeni people is a moral and legal obligation," the letter says. "Ending U.S participation would signal to millions of Yemenis living in Yemen and thousands of Yemeni-Americans who worry about their families in Yemen that weapon sales and geopolitical chess moves are not more important than their lives and the lives of their loved ones."
"It would be a monumental first achievement for your administration that would be praised by Americans across the ideological spectrum. It would also be an important sign that you will be an advocate for restraint, as you were during the Obama administration when you opposed U.S. participation in the military intervention in Libya, the troop surge in Afghanistan, and other military-first approaches," adds the letter, signed by groups including CodePink and Our Revolution.
In a statement Monday, CodePink national co-director Ariel Gold said that "American involvement in this brutal catastrophe is shameful and must come to an end. Pulling the U.S. out should be among Biden's top priorities for his first days in office."
Hal Ginsberg of Our Revolution concurred, declaring that "it's time for America to reclaim its moral compass and withdraw completely from any involvement in the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen."
— CODEPINK (@codepink) November 30, 2020
The U.S.-backed assault on Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, began during former President Barack Obama's administration, for which Biden was vice president. The letter notes that "since then more than a dozen senior Obama administration officials—including Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Jake Sullivan—have called for an end to U.S. participation in the war."
With President Donald Trump's imminent departure, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have "an historic opportunity to end U.S. complicity in this war" upon entering office, the letter says. Since the Biden-Harris victory earlier this month, progressives have called on the incoming administration to stand by early campaign claims that the ex-vice president wants to end U.S. involvement in the conflict.
As Shireen Al-Adeimi, an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, explained for In These Times this month:
In Yemen, Trump escalated the "war" he inherited from the Obama-Biden administration, compounding the extraordinary suffering Yemenis face today. (Though called a war, the situation in Yemen is, more accurately, a unilateral attack by powerful Arab and Western countries.) Since 2015, Yemenis have been victimized by a bombardment, blockade, and occupation led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which rely heavily on U.S. military support.
While similarly noting that the coalition has blockaded Yemen's ports and bombed funerals, weddings, hospitals, marketplaces, and residential areas, the new letter also points out that war-related deaths in the country have spiked during the Trump era.
"Despite this, the Trump administration issued an emergency declaration to push through billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE without congressional approval, vetoed a bipartisan War Powers Resolution passed by bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress to end unauthorized U.S. participation in the war, and cut USAID funding to Yemen right as Covid-19 hit the country," the letter details, encouraging Biden to pursue a more peaceful path.
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Hassan El-Tayyab, lead Middle East policy lobbyist for the progressive organization Friends Committee on National Legislation, told In These Times that "by executive order, Biden could get the Pentagon to end intelligence sharing for the Saudi coalition airstrikes, end logistical support, and end spare parts transfers that keep Saudi warplanes in the air."
"He could restore humanitarian assistance to northern Yemen," El-Tayyab added. "He could use his power as president to put pressure on other nations that are supporting the Saudi coalition—like France, the United Kingdom, and Canada—and get them to follow suit. He could have the State Department put a stop on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia unless they meet certain benchmarks."
In their letter, the advocacy groups call on Biden to:
- Heed the bipartisan votes of Congress indicating that the Executive Branch does not have authorization—as required by our Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973—to participate in the Saudi war in Yemen, and commit to signing a new Yemen War Powers Resolution if it arrives at your desk;
- End all war-related U.S. logistical support, targeting assistance, spare parts transfers, and intel to the Saudi-led coalition;
- Stop all sales of weapons to members of the Saudi-led coalition that could be used in the war and encourage U.S. allies and other countries to do the same;
- Pressure the Saudi-led coalition to end their military actions in Yemen, lift the blockade of Yemen's ports, allow entry of humanitarian aid and commercial imports, open Sana'a airport for civilian travel, and negotiate a nationwide ceasefire; and
- Restore and expand USAID funding to all parts of Yemen and recommit U.S. financial support to United Nations, World Health Organization, and World Food Program relief programs in Yemen. Work with the international community to pressure Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to meet and expand their funding pledges for humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction of the country.
"With countless new deaths from war and starvation every single day," the letter warns, referencing the nation's hunger crisis, "the people of Yemen can't afford to wait."
Aisha Jumaan of Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, another signatory, said that "Biden is given an opportunity to correct the wrong policy of supporting the Saudi war on Yemen in 2015 under the Obama administration. I hope that he now helps end the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, one that he helped create."
Other signatories include Action Corp, the Center for International Policy, and Veterans for Peace—whose executive director, former U.S. Army sniper Garett Reppenhagen, said that "as military veterans, we know the true cost of war."
"The victims of the armed Saudi-led conflict in Yemen include starving children and countless people suffering from Coivd-19," he continued. "It is shameful to have American support for atrocities that only benefit weapon industries and Saudi royalty. If the United States will have credibility as a stabilizing leader in the international community, we need to start by prioritizing humanitarian aid and stop enabling warmongering."
We're proud to be among the 80+ organizations calling on President-elect Biden to end US support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. We must develop a new foreign policy that embodies America's values. https://t.co/1PspaR9eL4
— Quincy Institute (@QuincyInst) November 30, 2020
Yasmine Taeb, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, emphasized that Americans have demanded an end to U.S. support for the "disastrous" war that has produced the world's worst humanitarian crisis. She urged the next administration to "prioritize human rights in our foreign policy" and "stop providing arms to authoritarian or repressive governments that systematically violate human rights."
Action Corp's Isaac Evans-Frantz highlighted action by lawmakers, pointing out that "through the recently-introduced War Powers Resolution, Congress is once again asserting its will to stop U.S. participation in this unconstitutional war."
The Biden administration, he said, "should stop all participation in the war—including intelligence sharing—and refocus on true U.S. security interests rather than the whims of the famine-causing Saudi dictatorship."