Congress recently passed a law ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in its war in Yemen. Will this end the war? This war has already led to tens of thousands of injuries and deaths, among civilians and military alike, and has completely destroyed life in this country, which has fallen victim to international and regional conflicts and in which nearly 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation and various diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
President Donald Trump is expected to veto this law and refuse to sign it because, according to reports, signing it would reduce his war-related powers. The resolution gives the president 30 days “to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen.” It is known that Trump will reject the resolution because he believes it severely infringes upon his executive authority and wants to avoid damaging what he has achieved in terms of trade and military deals with the Saudi government.
Nevertheless, the resolution sends several messages, foremost among them the fact that members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the resolution with unanimous consent. All members of the committee refused to continue the war and stay silent about the violations of civilian rights. In the House of Representatives, the law was approved with a majority of 274 votes – including 15 Republicans’ – and 175 votes opposed in a Senate controlled by Republicans who support President Trump.
This issue shows the truth of the matter, namely, that Trump’s decision about this law, a law that has garnered repeated consensus between the Democrats and a large number of the Republican members of Congress, tracks opinion on Trump’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, according to CIA findings. Trump’s decision about the law also presents a scenario for putting pressure on the Saudi kingdom.
Saudi Arabia might have been the player in the final scene of the Arab Spring drama had it not been for the “deal of the century” spearheaded by President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with the participation of the two countries’ allies in the region, foremost among them Egypt, Jordan, and the Israeli entity.
In its first stage, this deal consisted of announcing the Neom project, which will attract investments exceeding $500 billion.* Moreover, the deal included a program of reforms inside the kingdom and the guarantee of selling shares in the Saudi oil company Aramco to global oil companies. This deal was met with refusals by individuals in the Saudi royal family, chief among them, the crown prince. In response to the crown prince’s rejection of the deal, Trump immediately issued a knee-jerk response demanding payment of “jizya” or tribute, as the price for the protection that the United States provides to the Saudi royal family.**
However, the assassination of Khashoggi and the events that followed shaped the string of pressure on the king’s decision. Thus, this U.S. law, which will collapse under the president’s veto, represents a new chapter in pressure on Saudi Arabia with regard to confirming Trump’s commitment to supporting his allies. This decision flies in the face of the current trend in which human rights organizations, most notably Human Rights Watch, are demanding an arms embargo against the kingdom, along with international demands being made above and beyond those from members of both parties in Congress. President Trump’s veto would be a letter to his allies in the kingdom, telling them, “We are committed to you. We will keep our promises, and if you offer shares in Aramco, we will underwrite them.” The war on civilians in Yemen is nothing but a tool for asserting pressure.
*Editor’s note: Neom is a Saudi project for a smart and tourist cross-border city located in the far northwestern part of Saudi Arabia.
**Translator’s note: Jizya literally means tribute, but in context, it means a tribute paid by a non-Muslim population to a Muslim ruler in exchange for protection. Here, Trump is inverting that. Trump, a non-Muslim ruler, is demanding tribute from Saudi Arabia, a Muslim population, for protection. This nuance would not be missed by a Muslim Arabic-speaking reader, but it is lost in translation to English.