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House Dems Push Pentagon to Probe Illegal US, Saudi Activity in Yemen

© AP Photo / Hani MohammedPeople inspect the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017
People inspect the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 - Sputnik International
Four congressmen’s revisions to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could make for drastic change in the devastating, US-backed Saudi Arabian military operation in Yemen.

"There is a terrible humanitarian crisis occurring in Yemen, and it deserves our attention in Washington," Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), said in a statement. "That's why I successfully fought to include the following provisions while negotiating the final version of the NDAA."

The group negotiated the terms into the final version of the NDAA, which passed the US House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill then goes to the Senate, and should it pass, to President Donald Trump for approval.

The bill is unlikely to face much opposition in the Senate, however, as a House-Senate conference committee already gave it the green light, Sputnik News reported Thursday.

The provision follows remarks made by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who negotiated the Yemen reforms, in a late 2017 interview. "Today, I believe that we are aiding Saudi Arabia in Saudi Arabia's committing war crimes," he said.

The bill would force the US to cease in-flight refueling of Saudi and Saudi-led coalition aircraft that don't belong to the United States "unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen."

The bill would: force Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and USAID Administrator Mark Green to "detail a humanitarian support strategy for Yemen, including efforts to coordinate civilian and military efforts," draft a diplomatic strategy to end the war and define the US role of humanitarian support; force Mattis to issue a report to Congress on the US strategy in Yemen, diplomatic or otherwise, evaluating the effectiveness and costs of the US campaign; and require Mattis to review and determine whether US forces and US partners in the war have violated laws or "internationally recognized human rights," including "those related to the interrogation of Yemeni citizens in prisons" in Yemen. 

People gather to fill up their jerrycans with drinking water from a charity tanker truck, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 12, 2017. - Sputnik International
Water Facility Attack Cuts Off 10,500 People From Safe Drinking Water in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International accused the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi coalition partner, of torturing detainees at a network of secret prisons in the south of Yemen in a July 12 report, calling for a war crimes investigation, Sputnik News reported.

The provisions on Yemen — a joint effort of Reps. Khanna, Smith, Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) — would also allow the US to make payments as moral recompense for civilian casualties.

"These will be major steps promoting accountability regarding Yemen's civil war. I am pleased that we are able to make concrete progress on this issue," Smith said. "I strongly urge all sides of this conflict to implement a countrywide ceasefire, and work with the UN Special Envoy to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this violence. In Congress, we will keep fighting for transparency and accountability on Yemen. We must be willing to continue to act in the face of this growing crisis."

"I've taken bold actions since coming to Congress and worked to remedy the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen being caused by the Saudi-led war in Yemen," Khanna added. "I want to make it clear to the Saudi-led coalition that Congress is watching. We find additional military hostilities in Hodeida unacceptable and such action will prompt new Congressional action." 

A column of Yemeni pro-government forces and armoured vehicles arrives in al-Durayhimi district, about nine kilometres south of Hodeidah international airport on June 13, 2018 - Sputnik International
Saudi-Led Coalition Strikes Houthi HQ in Hodeidah Despite Ceasefire - Source

Hodeida is Yemen's main port for much-needed food aid, an essential lifeline to the starving nation, according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Long under siege, Saudi and UAE aircraft conducted airstrikes on it Thursday.

The United Nations estimates that more people will be at risk of starvation by the end of 2018 as a result of the conflict than Jews died during the Holocaust — some 10 million. A cholera outbreak resulting from destruction of infrastructure from bombing campaigns has also taken many lives.

"The provisions in this bill reflect deep, bipartisan concern in Congress over the mass hunger, cholera and poverty engulfing the country of Yemen," Pocan said, adding, "The Trump administration has expanded US military participation alongside the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen without Congressional authorization, aggravating the suffering of 8 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation."

"We are participating in the war in Yemen — I'm grateful that these provisions will ensure that more Americans have a better understanding of our involvement and its consequences," O'Rourke said.

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