The crown prince’s US visit and the Yemen war

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The crown prince’s US visit and the Yemen war

Headlines in the American media reflect the importance of the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States, which began on Monday.

In Washington, the crown prince will discuss a number of issues, including the war in Yemen, which opponents of President Donald Trump are trying to use in a battle to rob the White House of its powers in an old conflict between the executive and legislative branches of government over what is known as the War Powers Resolution. Three senators are working on a bill obliging the president to stop military cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen. Although they are asking for a vote within days, it is more likely to be delayed and reviewed, because it opens the door wider than Yemen. It weakens the president’s powers, and limits his freedom in conducting military cooperation with US allies.

This is quite an old controversial issue that some members of Congress are trying to revive; using the Yemen war is a Trojan horse to strengthen the role of the legislature, i.e. the Congress, at the expense of the powers of the White House, or the president.

In fact, the war in Yemen is not of any real interest to the United States, in addition to the fact that the US participation in it is extremely limited. There are no US soldiers on the ground there, unlike the situations in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, where there are about 9,000 US soldiers and advisers running the war and fighting on the ground, without forgetting that the US Air Force is also directly involved.

In Yemen, it is actually very much in Washington’s interest to end the fighting and ensure the return of legitimacy as prerequisites to eliminating Al-Qaeda and stopping Iran’s meddling through its Houthi proxy.

Washington’s military involvement with Riyadh and the coalition it is leading in Yemen is limited to three areas; sharing intelligence, providing logistical support, and providing air-to-air refuelling. The last is now being disputed, as the sponsors of the bill claim that supplying fighter jets in the air is similar to putting troops on the ground and, therefore, must be approved by Congress.

There are also members of Congress who believe that any attempt to deprive the president of his powers, and restrict his freedom of cooperation with the coalition in Yemen, would adversely affect the interests and security of the United States in general.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Regardless of the motives of the bill’s sponsors and those seeking to limit US military cooperation in Yemen, the major US authorities involved, such as the Pentagon, consider the coalition war in Yemen to be important for the United States as well, and thus advocate providing support in those three areas.

There are also members of Congress who believe that any attempt to deprive the president of his powers, and restrict his freedom of cooperation with the coalition in Yemen, would adversely affect the interests and security of the United States in general. Republican Senator Bob Corker argues that what is being offered to Saudi Arabia is similar to what the US offers to its friends around the world, and hence, believes that the provision of these services to Saudi Arabia does not constitute “an involvement in hostilities that requires the use of the War Powers Resolution”; warning that regarding it as such would lead to a dangerous problem.

The Saudi crown prince’s planned meetings with the US president and congressional leaders will focus on key issues for both sides, including Yemen. Most of those who view the war in Yemen only from a humanitarian perspective are ignoring its causes. Indeed, it is crucial to make clear that merely stopping the war would not solve the problem, because the fighting would continue anyway between the local forces themselves.

Moreover, ending the war on its own would not secure food and medicine and restore civilian life, since there is no effective government there. Consequently, ending the war without a decisive political or military solution would only increase the human tragedy there.

Therefore, what is hoped for is the insistence on ending the insurgency, speeding up the return and consolidation of the legitimate government, and completing the internationally agreed steps that were thwarted by the rebels’ coup; including the establishment of a regime that follows a new constitution and carries out parliamentary elections.

Yemen will remain a source of threat to the world if chaos continues without a legitimate government and the elimination of the insurgency. The danger from Yemen is real, as attempted terrorist attacks stemming from there have already targeted the US and other countries. So, without a strong legitimate central government, the ground would continue to be fertile for terrorists and others.

 
  • Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed
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