1. Update
  2. Middle East & Iran

Stop the U.S.-Sponsored Yemen War

By Kate Gould, July 25, 2018


The impending sale of more U.S. bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provides Congress with an opportunity to act to stop the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The U.S. government is literally refueling the bombers and arming the war that threatens millions of Yemenis with famine, mass starvation, and a historic resurgence of cholera.

Trump Needs to Notify Congress of these Bomb Sales

This year, the Trump administration is expected to notify Congress of the two big bomb sales: one to Saudi Arabia and one to the United Arab Emirates. Based on the pattern of use of such weapons over the last three years, we expect both countries will use them in bombing raids that destroy Yemeni hospitals, schools, and villages. Beyond the weapons sales themselves, the United States provides the bombers with mid-air refueling support, and other kinds of logistical and intelligence support.

Getting to 51 Senate Votes

According to the law, Congress has the right to block these arms sales. But to do that, members of Congress need to hear there is growing public support to oppose these weapons sales. Last year, we got very close, with 47 senators voting to block a smaller bomb sale to Saudi Arabia for continuing the war in Yemen. That means we just need four additional senators to pass a resolution of disapproval and win a vote to block one of these bomb sales.

We don’t yet know when the Trump administration will officially notify Congress about the bomb sales. But when it does, the Arms Export Control Act allows any senator to introduce legislation that forces a floor vote on the bombs sale. This legislation will be called a “resolution of disapproval.”

For a resolution of disapproval of a bomb sale to pass, it will only need 51 votes—not 60 as is usually required under Senate rules.

Last year, 44 senators voted to end all U.S. military involvement in the war in Yemen. It also included ending U.S. mid-air refueling support for Saudi and Emirati bombers. They voted in favor of ending the illegal U.S. war in Yemen altogether, even though both Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the de-facto king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, were on Capitol Hill to personally lobby senators to oppose the legislation the day of the vote.

Senator Bob Menendez Puts a Hold on Arms Sales

The vote on the bombs sales could happen as soon as August, though it could be postponed later in the year.

While the administration hasn’t formally notified Congress about these sales, it briefed the leadership and staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Notably, ranking member of SFRC Bob Menendez announced he has put a hold on both sales moving forward.

The Trump administration isn’t legally bound to be restrained by this informal hold, but past administrations tend to not move forward with arms sales unless there is support from the chairs and ranking members of SFRC and HFAC.

Your Action Now Could Help Block these Arms Sales

The clock starts ticking once the administration formally notifies Congress of either of the two arms sales. The Senate has 30 days to vote on fast-track legislation to block the sale. For the House to vote on blocking the sale, there first must be a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A successful Senate vote would be a gamechanger and would help put pressure on the House to take up such a vote.

Senators are already hearing from military contractors like Raytheon about supporting these bomb sales. It is essential that members of Congress hear from peace advocates to oppose these bomb sales and end the devastating war in Yemen.

In addition to Sen. Menendez, Sen. Chris Murphy, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have spoken out against these bomb sales. Urge your senators to speak out and commit to voting against more weapons of mass starvation for the U.S. war in Yemen. We need senators to vote against the sales early to encourage the fence-sitting senators to come out early as well.

Write a letter to the editor urging your senators to act now.

Kate Gould

  • Legislative Director, Middle East Policy

Kate Gould is FCNL's Legislative Director for Middle East Policy. Kate is one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working to advance human rights objectives and support diplomatic solutions to resolve disputes between the U.S. and Iran and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel/Palestine.