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US House passes measure to end maintenance for Saudi aircraft targeting Yemen

Progressives' bid to get Riyadh to stop bombing Yemen may test Biden's commitment to Gulf allies.
Yemeni supporters of the Shiite Huthi movement take part in a ceremony commemorating the seventh anniversary of the Huthi takeover of the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, 2021. The conflict in Yemen flared in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital, prompting Saudi-led intervention to prop up the internationally recognized government the following year.

The US House of Representatives approved a measure on Thursday that would force an end to maintenance and intelligence support for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Lawmakers voted 219-207 to advance the measure, which was introduced by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. The heads of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), also co-sponsored the measure.

The amendment would be included in next year’s National Defense Authorization Act if it passes the Senate.

“The passage of our amendment as part of this year’s NDAA sends a clear signal to the government of Saudi Arabia that they must end their war of attrition, support a political settlement, and make amends," Khanna said in a statement on Thursday.

“Next, our amendment will head to NDAA conference negotiations, and I will continue to push for its inclusion in the final conference report so that President Biden can sign it into law," Khanna said.

"It’s time to do what is morally right, hold Saudi Arabia accountable, and fully end U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of Yemeni civilians.” 

Why it Matters: The advancement marks another incremental win for the California lawmaker and members of his party who have long sought to end US military support for Riyadh’s war effort in Yemen, a campaign that has largely failed to roll back the Houthis’ victories while worsening that country’s humanitarian crises.

"Our collective goal has been, and must remain, to bring about an end to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world as swiftly as possible," Smith said in a statement.

Ending the US role in the conflict has long had bipartisan support in Washington.

US President Joe Biden announced an end to US support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen shortly after taking office, fulfilling an earlier campaign promise.

But the Pentagon has continued to provide maintenance support to the Royal Saudi Air Force, as well as what officials say is defensive intelligence to Riyadh for early warnings ahead of Houthi missile attacks on the Gulf kingdom.

The head of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, told Al-Monitor in April that the military does not provide intelligence support for offensive Saudi operations inside Yemen.

Former President Donald Trump twice used his veto power to block Congressional efforts to halt support for the Gulf coalition’s war effort.

What's Next: The  Houthi rebels, aided by Iran, now control a majority of Yemen's population centers despite the Saudi-led, US-backed campaign.

The Houthis have blown off US  and UN mediation and Riyadh's proposals for a ceasefire, continuing to lob missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia while demanding the kingdom end the coalition's blockade of Yemen.

The Biden administration's point man on ending the crisis, Timothy Lenderking, met with senior Saudi and Yemeni officials in Riyadh yesterday.

Know More: Adam Lucente has the latest on progressive Democrats' moves to hold to account Biden's professed focus on human rights in foreign policy.

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