Sen. Bernie Sanders was among those welcoming the White House announcement Thursday that the U.S. will limit its role in the Saudi-led war on Yemen by ending support for "offensive operations," with the Vermont Independent calling the development "a tribute to the work of so many activists over the years."
"Yemen needs food, medicine, and healthcare—not bombs and blockades," the senator tweeted.
In a statement, Sanders pointed to the legislative effort he undertook three years ago along with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah ) to end U.S. participation in the bombing campaign of Yemen—now in its sixth year—as well as sustained activism by peace advocates.
"For many years, activists in Yemen and around the world have worked to bring an end to the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has led to the world's worst humanitarian crisis," said Sanders.
"In 2018," he continued, "I helped lead an effort to pass the first War Powers Resolution in history, calling for the United States to end its unauthorized participation in that war."
President Joe Biden also announced Thursday that career diplomat Timothy Lenderking would serve as special envoy to Yemen, which was also welcomed by Sanders.
Today's announcement that the White House will end military support for the Saudi-led war in the Yemen war is a tribute to the work of so many activists over the years.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 4, 2021
Yemen needs food, medicine, and health care—not bombs and blockades. pic.twitter.com/TllHHnK93z
"Today's announcement by President Biden that the United States will end support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, and his naming of a Special Envoy to help resolve this conflict and bring aid and reconstruction to Yemen, are important steps," said Sanders, "and a tribute to the work of so many activists over the years."
At his Thursday speech at the State Department, Biden said that in addition to a halt on support for offensive operations, the U.S. would end "relevant arms sales" and back a ceasefire effort to help end what he called a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe."
As the Associated Press reported,
The ending of U.S. support for the offensive will not affect any U.S. operations against the Yemen-based al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, group, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. [...]
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While withdrawing support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen, the Biden administration said it intends to help the kingdom boost its defenses against any further attacks from Yemen's Houthis or outside adversaries. The assurance is seen as part of an effort to persuade Saudi Arabia and other combatants to end the conflict overall.
Despite such caveats to Thursday's announcement, MPower Change campaign director Sijal Nasralla said in a statement that it still represents "a real, monumental victory."
"We celebrate this massive step forward even knowing that under the war on terror, the United States will still have carte blanche to bomb Yemen, even if the immense suffering from this particular campaign ends," he said. "We also know that we must end the forever wars, and the Authorization for Use of Military Force that legally powers it."
Like Sanders, Nasralla gave a "massive thank you" to international peace activists "who began the effort under the Obama administration, kept it up under Trump, and have brought us to this moment under Biden."
"Let's remember," he said, that "this coalition effort saw one of the only real votes in Congress in decades to curb U.S. imperialism," referring to Sanders' war powers resolution. "Trump vetoed it then, but it helped lay the groundwork for this moment."
Nasralla called for continued pressure "to push the U.S. to end all of its forever wars."
In a statement last month Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-American and an assistant professor at Michigan State University, urged the new administration to ensure that a full end to U.S. complicity in the war.
"I call on President Biden to end every aspect of this war," Al-Adeimi said. "One day, Yemenis will have a chance to pick up the pieces and chart their own course, free of international meddling and intervention.”
The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Yemen has been pushed to the brink of famine, and considers the country the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The war has killed, directly or indirectly, an estimated 230,000 Yemenis, the U.N. says.