On September 23, 2021, California Congressman Ro Khanna put forward an amendment to end American military logistical support and the transfer of spare parts to Saudi aircraft carrying out controversial air strikes against the Houthis in the Yemeni Civil War. In addition, Jonathan Cohn noted in his Medium post that this would “permanently end intelligence sharing that enables offensive strikes and any US effort to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany Saudi or United Arab Emirates-led coalition forces in the war in Yemen.”
The amendment passed by a narrow margin of 219 to 207. As for the partisan breakdown of the vote, 208 Democrats and 11 Republicans voted for it. 11 Democrats voted against this amendment. Cohn broke down how the vote went:
The 11 Democrats were Cindy Axne (IA-03), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Jared Golden (ME-02), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Susie Lee (NV-03), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Jimmy Panetta (CA-02), and Chris Pappas (NH-01).
The 11 Republicans were Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Michael Cloud (TX-27), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Tom Massie (KY-04), Matt Rosendale (MT-AL), Chip Roy (TX-01), and Fred Upton (MI-06).
Since the Yemeni Civil War broke out in 2014, the conflict has turned out to be a total disaster. The Saudi government, which has made great efforts to prop up the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has found itself roundly condemned internationally for conducting controversial airstrikes that resulted in the grisly slaughter of countless civilians. As of now, the Houthis — a Zaidi Shia movement — have made surprising progress in this conflict and have even attracted the support of Iran as the conflict progressed. This is part of Iran’s decades-long rivalry with Saudi Arabia. The present Yemeni conflict has provided Iran another opportunity to give Saudi Arabia a bloody nose, hence their support of the Houthis.
The Yemen Civil War has resulted in a humanitarian disaster, with 10 million Yemenis being subjected to sharp food shortages. According to U.N. estimates, 230,000 Yemenis have died in the conflict. At the American Conservative, Ivan Eland highlighted that the Saudis and their coalition allies have launched airstrikes that have accounted for 62% of civilian casualties. The nature of these strikes has sullied the image of the Saudi-led coalition.
The good news is that the emerging populist wing of the Republican Party — largely made up of Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, and Marjorie Taylor Greene — has remained consistent when it comes to issues of foreign policy restraint. Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie unsurprisingly voted for this amendment, after all, he’s one of the most reliable voices for restraint in Congress.
However, the overwhelming majority of GOP congressmen opted to vote against this amendment, thus showing some residual interventionist tendencies among a lot of Republicans. This latest vote shows that there is still work to be done on foreign policy with regards to Republicans. Many Republicans are blindly attached to the informal Saudi-Israeli pact that has grown in response to the rise of Iran and Turkey in the Middle East. But that’s for those countries to solve.
The Middle East no longer occupies a priority for American foreign policy. Key players like Saudi Arabia will have to figure out things on their own without the US having to hold their hand. However, there are still some Republicans who are wedded to antiquated foreign policy mindsets and want to continue having the US entangled in Middle Eastern conflicts that no longer serve its interests.
The Yemeni conflict should ultimately be determined by countries in the Middle East and the accompanying Eurasian actors like Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The recent defense agreement that Russia and Saudi Arabia signed off on and Iran’s ascension into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are indicators of how countries in the Middle East are gradually cooperating with adjacent regional powers to bring equilibrium to the region.
At the end of the day, the US should pass the buck to relevant actors to clean up the Middle East and focus its attention on the Western Hemisphere — an area that it has largely ignored and is already becoming unstable due to migrant inflows. The US should no longer concern itself with Middle Eastern backwaters.