Sanders Resolution on Yemen Would Harm Allies, Embolden Iran
‘Imagine how challenging that would become if every advise-and-assist mission our forces undertake around the globe becomes subject to misapplication of the War Powers Resolution. Thus, I oppose this resolution on grounds of policy and on grounds of procedure. I would urge my colleagues to join me this afternoon.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding his opposition to the Sanders Resolution, and the Senate’s vote this afternoon:
“Later today, the Senate will vote on a resolution offered by the junior Senators from Vermont and Utah. Their goal is to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. And they propose to do this using provisions of the War Powers Resolution and the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act. I oppose their resolution for two reasons.
“The first reason, is that my colleagues’ substantive policy aim is misguided. Supreme Leader Khamenei and his regime know what their goals are: Preserving their rule, expanding Iranian hegemony across the region, and harming the United States and Israel. That’s why Iran exports violence, intimidation, and coercion. That’s why Iran expands its ballistic missile program. That’s why Iran uses proxies such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and other Shia militias—along with cyber-attacks and other terrorism—to meddle in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and beyond.
“During the Obama administration, America drew down our forward-deployed military and conventional force structure. We chased after a flawed nuclear agreement. We reduced our commitment to Sunni Arab partners. Iran noted our reticence -- and saw an opportunity. It expanded its support of proxies and built strategies to exploit the unrest following civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and the rampage of ISIL into Iraq.
“If this meddling is to be confronted, if terrorist threats are to be countered, and if arms shipments are to be curtailed, the United States will need the help of our regional partners. One key partner is Saudi Arabia. We’ve shared common interests for decades. We’ve worked together to counter Iran, support the Free Syria Army, and combat ISIL. Today, the support the U.S. provides to the Saudi-led coalition – including aerial refueling over the Red Sea -- contributes to greater precision in their air campaign and leads to fewer civilian casualties.
“Let me repeat that. Withdrawing U.S. support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian casualties. And it would signal that we are not serious about containing Iran or its proxies. The Houthi presence would continue threatening shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Iranian missiles would continue threatening Riyadh. And Iran would be further emboldened.
“That’s why the goal of this resolution is bad policy. But my colleagues’ resolution is also procedurally mistaken. The expedited authorities they wish to draw upon are meant for removing U.S. forces from actual participation in hostilities. But our support for the Saudi coalition has not caused us to enter active warfare or hostilities in Yemen. The Department of Defense and Secretary Mattis have made clear that U.S. forces are not engaged in exchanges of fire with hostile forces.
“According to the acting General Counsel of the Department of Defense, quote: ‘The limited military and intelligence support that the United States is providing to the [KSA-led] coalition does not involve any introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities for purposes of the War Powers Resolution or of section 1013 of the Department of State Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1984 and 1985.’
“I support that assessment. The refueling of aircraft over the Red Sea does not equate to introducing U.S. forces into hostilities. Nor does intelligence sharing. U.S. forces are not transporting Saudi forces into combat within Yemen by air, land, or sea. So the expedited procedures this resolution seeks to exploit simply do not apply here.
“If Senators disagree with my assessment of the merits and oppose our support for the coalition, they have several legislative tools available to them. They could try to restrict funds through the appropriations process, amend the Arms Control Export Act for the licensing of defense services, or the National Defense Authorization Act. Instead, we face a resolution which purports to require the President to withdraw United States forces from hostilities in Yemen — hostilities which we have not entered.
“In a recent speech, Secretary Mattis explained, quote, ‘History proves that nations with allies thrive… Working by, with and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength.’ End quote.
“Imagine how challenging that would become if every advise-and-assist mission our forces undertake around the globe becomes subject to misapplication of the War Powers Resolution. Thus, I oppose this resolution on grounds of policy and on grounds of procedure. I would urge my colleagues to join me this afternoon.”
Related Issues: Israel, ISIL, Iran, War on Terror, National Security