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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Assessing Trump’s Yemen resolution veto


Trump’s attempt to reassert power has done much worse

President Donald Trump vetoed a resolution that would remove U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the Yemen Civil War on April 16.

The resolution was fairly bipartisan with seven Republican senators voting for it, but Trump’s veto was not unexpected. Trump’s reasoning for vetoing the resolution comes from his obsession with power and his undying support for Saudi Arabia and his distrust in Iran.

Soon after his veto, Trump tweeted his reasoning for his response: “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities…” Trump’s “weakened constitutional authority” comes from the 1973 War Powers Resolution which gives Congress the authority to remove U.S. military that has been deployed abroad without a formal declaration of war.

To understand why our involvement in Yemen can actually be ended by Congress, it is important to know what exactly is happening in Yemen.

The civil war in Yemen began in 2015 with the minority Shi’ite Houthi forces aligning with the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to resign after protests within Yemen during the Arab Spring. The Houthi forces stormed Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and forced the government at the time to resign.

The current president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, while receiving medical treatment out of the country, asked for the Gulf Cooperation Council to intervene and remove the Houthi government. Saudi Arabia (where a majority of citizens are Sunni) stepped in and assembled a coalition against the Houthi forces.

As an ally of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. helped the coalition with intelligence and surveillance support, advising the coalition and trading arms. This support for the Saudi coalition was not an official declaration of war against Yemen, which means it falls under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

Since there has been no official declaration of war with Yemen, it falls within Congress’ authority to remove support from Yemen—not Trump’s.

What Trump fails to understand in this situation is that our country and our democracy were founded on the principle of checks and balances, which prohibits the centralization of power within one branch and most importantly, within one person. In addition to protecting his power, Trump is also fiercely protective of his relationship with Saudi Arabia.

One of our biggest allies, Saudi Arabia has been vital to our presence in the Middle East, and their leader, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, is one of Trump’s greatest partners.

Even after the CIA’s conclusion that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was ordered to be executed by the Crown Prince, Trump has continued to embrace the Muhammad.

In addition to the execution of Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia has been very problematic during Yemen’s civil war. The Saudi-led coalition that the U.S. has helped is responsible for most of the atrocities within Yemen.

Dubbed the greatest humanitarian catastrophe by the United Nations due to the high number of civilian deaths, famine and diseases, the Saudi government is responsible for 4,585 out of the 7,025 civilian deaths and has repeatedly blocked and bombed ports that would allow for aid and supplies for more than 14 million Yemenis on the brink of famine and cholera.

This resolution was meant to be a way to punish the Saudi coalition for their atrocities, as a Washington Post editorial noted that “Without U.S. support, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would likely be forced to end the war.”

However, now that Trump has vetoed the resolution, we are providing Saudi Arabia with the resources to continue the humanitarian crisis as we continue to sell them weapons that allow them to target civilian facilities through airstrikes.

Trump is also wary of doing too much to hurt our relationship with Saudi Arabia because of our relationship with Iran. In order to understand the fragility of Yemen’s war in relation to Iran, it is important to understand which actors fall under which sect of Islam.

As stated earlier, the Houthi population that is currently in control of Yemen is Shi’ite, while Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni (as is the royal family). Iran is majority Shi’ite as well. The conflict between the two sects has not been a nonviolent one since the beginning of Islam, but it still greatly affects who citizens think should hold political power as well as how states interact with each other.

The worry that the Trump administration has with the Houthi population in control of Yemen is that they will align too closely with Iran, one of our greatest enemies. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in March, “if you truly care about Yemeni lives, you’d support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state” of Iran.

The problem with Trump and his administration’s fear of Iran influencing Yemen is that Iran really isn’t culpable. Iran is not responsible for the humanitarian crisis, Saudi Arabia is, and, by association, we are too.

Trump’s veto was not just reasserting his power and authority, nor was it meant to strengthen our relations with Saudi Arabia and lessen Iran’s authority. It allowed for 14 million people to continue to starve, be sick and live in a state of hell.

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