Yemen in Focus: Senate votes against 'unconstitutional' war

Yemen in Focus: Senate votes against 'unconstitutional' war
In a blow to Donald Trump, the US Senate voted to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where at least 22 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike.
4 min read
15 March, 2019
Your weekly updates on the Yemen conflict exclusively on The New Arab [TNA]
The US Senate on Wednesday dealt a stinging bipartisan rebuke to Donald Trump's foreign policy and his alliance with Riyadh, voting to end support for the bloody Saudi-led war effort in Yemen.

By a 54 to 46 tally, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled chamber approved an historic curtailment of presidential war powers, citing congressional authority under the decades-old War Powers Resolution to direct Trump "to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen".

The vote was co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee. If it were to pass Congress, it would be the first time lawmakers have invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to halt American military involvement in a foreign conflict.

It would also be another strong rebuke of President Donald Trump's support for Saudi Arabia, which has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

"The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with an irresponsible foreign policy," Sanders said from the Senate floor prior to the vote.

He said a vote in favour of the measure would "begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional authority by ending United States involvement in a war that has not been authorised by Congress and is unconstitutional."

Civilians targeted

Meanwhile, on the ground in Yemen, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in northern Yemen killed at least 22 civilians, including women and children, earlier this week, the United Nations said on Monday.

Reports from the Hajjah province confirmed more than 30 civilians were injured in the airstrikes, with at least 10 women and 12 children killed. Houthi rebels confirmed the burial of 17 civilians on Thursday, accusing the the coalition of "deliberately committing... this massacre", according to a statement carried by the Houthis' Saba news agency.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande said: "We condemn these deaths and injuries unequivocally and we share our deep condolences with the families of the victims.

"It is outrageous that innocent civilians continue to die needlessly in a conflict that should, and can be solved."

Parts of Hajjah province are controlled by government forces, while others, including Kushar where the strike was reported, are in the hands of the Houthis.

The art of war

But all is not dead and gloomy in Yemen, as demonstrated by a number of artists in the capital this week who lined up against a wall on Thursday to paint murals reflecting fears as well as hopes in a country crippled by war.

"We are here as a tribute to art and culture and to spread the message of peace in an attempt to revive what this war has taken from us," said Haifa Subay, a young artist in Sanaa.

The graffiti artist was taking part in an open-air exhibition, painting a mural of an abstract face with words of hope and encouragement in bold, red letters.

"The war has destroyed Yemen. It has destroyed all the capabilities of this beautiful country," she said from the Houthi-held capital.

Thiyazen al-Alawai, another young artist, said he hopes to bring back life to the city through his art work.

"Street art in Yemen is not separate from society but a part of it," he said as people, young and old, paused to admire his work.

"The people are not spectators, but they are participants in such art work."

Further down the wall, a teenage boy donning a hoodie and a respirator mask spray-painted using his country's flag colours: red, white and black.

"We just hope that Yemen returns to the way it was," said Subay, to the backdrop of the words Arabia Felix, or Happy Arabia - used by the Romans to describe the part of the region to which Yemen belonged, home to the legendary Queen of Sheba.

Yemen In Focus is a new, regular feature from The New Arab. 

Sana Uqba is a journalist at The New Arab. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Sanasiino