A release from the National Council of Churches
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, a letter was sent to Congress urging members to support efforts to repeal the authorization for the US to participate in the ongoing war in Yemen. The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy was one of the faith-based and civil society organizations that signed the letter.
For the past seven years the US has provided lethal military aid to Saudi Arabia in support of its war against Yemen. The war and Saudi-led blockade of Yemen has resulted in extensive suffering for the people of Yemen and led to a humanitarian crisis.
Additional faith groups signing the letter include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, and Churches for Middle East Peace, among others.
Please pray… For an end to the war and for a lasting peace in Yemen. Please pray for all who are suffering from this war, those who have lost loved ones, those who have been injured, those who are facing hunger and other wants and who need humanitarian aid.
The full text of the letter:
December 7, 2022
Dear Members of Congress,
We, the undersigned 105 organizations, welcomed news earlier this year that Yemen’s warring parties agreed to a nationwide truce to halt military operations, lift fuel restrictions, and open Sana’a airport to commercial traffic. Unfortunately, it’s been almost two months since the UN-brokered truce in Yemen expired, violence on the ground is escalating, and there is still no formal mechanism preventing a return to all-out war. In an effort to renew this truce and further incentivize Saudi Arabia to stay at the negotiating table, we urge you to bring the war powers resolutions to end U.S. military participation in the Saudi led coalition’s war on Yemen – led by Representatives DeFazio, Jayapal, Schiff, Mace, and Senator Sanders, and cosponsored by over 130 members of the House and Senators – to the floor of your respective chambers during the 117th Congress. We applaud Senator Sanders for announcing he will bring this resolution to the floor for a vote in the lame-duck and our groups are ready to support its passage.
March 26th, 2022, marked the start of the eighth year of the Saudi-led war and blockade on Yemen, which has helped cause the deaths of nearly half a million people and pushed millions more to the edge of starvation. With continued U.S. military support, Saudi Arabia escalated its campaign of collective punishment on the people of Yemen in recent months, making the start of 2022 one of the deadliest time periods of the war. Earlier this year, Saudi airstrikes targeting a migrant detention facility and vital communications infrastructure killed at least 90 civilians, wounded over 200, and triggered a nationwide internet blackout.
After seven years of direct and indirect involvement in the Yemen war, the United States must cease supplying weapons, spare parts, maintenance services, and logistical support to Saudi Arabia to ensure that there is no return of hostilities in Yemen and the conditions remain for the parties to achieve a lasting peace agreement.
All agree that the Houthis share blame for much of the violence and human rights abuses in Yemen today. Continued U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war, however, furthers the Houthi narrative about foreign intervention in Yemen, inadvertently strengthening the Houthis and undermining America’s ability to act as a credible mediator between the warring parties.
While the truce had a positive impact on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, UN officials have warned that millions are still in need of urgent assistance. In Yemen today, roughly 20.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid for survival, with up to 19 million Yemenis acutely food insecure. A report indicated that 2.2 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition over the course of 2022 and could perish without urgent treatment.
The war in Ukraine has only exacerbated the humanitarian conditions in Yemen by making food even more scarce. Yemen imports over 27% of its wheat from Ukraine and 8% from Russia. The UN reported that Yemen could see its famine numbers increase “five-fold” in the second half of 2022 as a result of wheat import shortages.
According to reports from UNFPA and the Yemeni Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, the conflict has had especially devastating consequences for Yemeni women and children. A woman dies every two hours from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and for every woman who dies in childbirth, another 20 suffer preventable injuries, infections, and permanent disabilities.
In February 2021, President Biden announced an end to U.S. participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. Yet the United States continues to provide spare parts, maintenance, and logistical support for Saudi warplanes. The administration also has never defined what constitutes “offensive” and “defensive” support, and it has since approved over a billion dollars in arms sales, including new attack helicopters and air-to-air missiles. This support sends a message of impunity to the Saudi-led coalition for its bombardment and siege of Yemen.
Representatives DeFazio, Schiff, Jayapal, Mace, and Senator Bernie Sanders have consistently stated their intent to pass a new Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unauthorized U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s brutal military campaign.
This is more essential than ever to maintain momentum for peace in Yemen, and to prevent backsliding by blocking U.S. support for any renewed hostilities. The lawmakers wrote, “As a candidate, President Biden pledged to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen while many who now serve as senior officials in his administration repeatedly called for shutting down precisely the activities the U.S. is engaged in that enable Saudi Arabia’s brutal offensive. We call on them to follow through on their commitment.”
While members of both chambers have proposed a range of potential legislative actions aimed at reining in U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Yemen WPR is the most viable, for several reasons. First, it only needs a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass, while other proposed legislation would require 60 votes in the Senate to defeat a filibuster. Thanks to the expedited procedures under the 1973 Act, it can also be brought to the floor without delay and, if passed, would go directly to the president’s desk.
In conclusion, the undersigned organizations representing millions of Americans, urge Congress to reassert its Article I war powers by finally terminating all U.S. participation in Saudi Arabia’s war and blockade, which is the best way for Congress to reduce the likelihood or intensity of a resumption of hostilities in Yemen. Our organizations support the Yemen War Powers Resolutions, and urge Members of Congress to cosponsor, insist on a vote on the floor before the end of the 117th Congress, and ultimately vote yes to adopt this bill in Congress and send it to President Biden’s desk. We call on all members of Congress to say “no” to Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression by fully ending all U.S. support for a conflict that has caused such immense bloodshed and human suffering.
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