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Trump Vetoes Bipartisan Legislation to End US Support of Saudi Arabia in Yemen

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“Trump has shamefully vetoed our bipartisan effort to end the unconstitutional US-Saudi war in Yemen, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

President Trump issued the second veto of his presidency on Tuesday, derailing the bipartisan legislation to end U.S. support for the Saudi-coalition in Yemen’s Civil War. Congress never authorized U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen, and the resolution represented an effort to reinstate congressional approval for foreign military engagements.

Human Rights Watch calls Yemen the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” and the U.N. estimates half the country’s population is at risk of famine. A UNICEF official has described the conflict as a “war on children,” with 85,000 children under the age of five dying of malnutrition in the last three years.

U.S.-made bombs have been used to target schools, hospitals and weddings in Yemen. After U.S. intelligence determined Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman was guilty of ordering the execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, increased public scrutiny of the Saudi-U.S. relationship led to calls of ending U.S. support for the humanitarian crisis. President Trump has since refused, citing lucrative arms deals and containing Iran as reason for continued partnership with the Saudi kingdom.

The president also said the resolution would be a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.” The constitution grants Congress the power to declare wars and authorize military engagements, not the president.

House Members Respond to Trump Yemen Veto

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) who led the Yemen resolution in the House, rejected President Trump’s argument, tweeting:

“The War Powers Resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen has nothing to do with weakening Trump’s constitutional authorities. It’s about both houses of Congress taking back our authority outlined in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to decide on matters of war & peace.”

Rep. Ro Khanna expressed disappointment that “a president elected on the promise of putting an end to our endless wars,” had decided to continue what is widely considered a humanitarian outrage. In the campaign of 2016, Trump sought to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton and establishment Republicans by chastising failed wars in Iraq and Libya, saying his foreign policy would avoid costly and destructive foreign engagements.

Sponsors of the bill expressed resolve to rally for an override of the veto, as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan said:

“Trump has shamefully vetoed our bipartisan effort to end the unconstitutional US-Saudi war in Yemen, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Congress has sole authority over war. Despite this setback, we will bring this conflict to an end.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a 2020 presidential hopeful, met with President Trump at the beginning of his presidency, hoping to find solidarity with the incoming commander-in-chief’s alleged anti-war agenda. The progressive congresswoman notably split with the Democratic National Committee to support Bernie Sanders in 2020, and reports she was “under serious consideration” for a cabinet position in the Trump administration surprised progressives.

Gabbard then said she wanted to work with the president on foreign policy despite their numerous differences, but has condemned his decisions since. After the veto, Rep. Gabbard tweeted :

“By vetoing War Powers Act, Trump again proves he’s the servant of Saudi Arabia—the theocratic dictatorship spending billions spreading the most extreme & intolerant form of Islam around the world, supporting al-Qaeda & other jihadists, & waging genocidal war in Yemen w/ US help.”

Are the Trumps in Saudi Arabia’s Pocket?

According to the Intercept, Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman said he has Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner “in his pocket”, and the House oversight committee revealed Kushner and other top Trump officials secretly sought to help Saudi Arabia develop nuclear technology. Critics argue President Trump’s dismissal of the prince’s order to murder a journalist has emboldened Saudi Arabia to commit human rights abuses like the torture of women’s rights activists in Saudi prisons.

President Trump’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia, a country suspected of illegally donating to his 2016 campaign. The International Rescue Committee said Trump’s veto grants a “green light” to Saudi Arabia to continue committing humanitarian atrocities.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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