Biden Calls For End To U.S. Support For War On Yemen

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is calling for an end to American support for the Saudi war on Yemen.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is joining the call by other Democrats for an end to American support for the Saudi war on Yemen:

Former vice president Joe Biden is taking his first major foreign policy stance since officially announcing his candidacy for president by calling for the United States to end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen. This aligns him with Senate Democrats and against President Trump.

Biden’s decision to weigh in on the Yemen issue is a clear sign he plans to rely on his long experience and record on foreign policy as he lays his claim to the role of commander in chief. That means foreign policy will indeed be featured in the Democratic primary, something Biden’s opponents within the party are already preparing for.

But on the issue of U.S. involvement in Yemen, Biden is aligned with the entire Senate Democratic caucus — and even some Republicans — who want the president to halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led war there, which has fueled a massive humanitarian crisis.

“Vice President Biden believes it is past time to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen and cancel the blank check the Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia for its conduct of that war,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told me. “He urges Congress to override President Trump’s veto.”

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The Senate’s version of the resolution was originally sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime critic of the Saudi intervention in Yemen and of U.S. military support for that operation. Efforts to restrict U.S. assistance to the Saudis fell short in previous Congresses, but gained support after Saudi government agents murdered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi at their consulate in Istanbul last October.

The Trump administration’s response to Khashoggi’s death, widely viewed as feckless in Congress, helped bolster support for efforts to reduce U.S. military cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Biden was early to criticize the president’s response as well, telling CBS last October that Trump “seems to have a love affair with autocrats.”
Biden said there should be consequences for the Saudi Arabian government if it was proved to be complicit in the murder.

“My doubts are that there’s very little sense of rule of law, respect for human rights, dignity,” Biden said of the Saudi regime during the CBS interview. “The allegations that are made so far . . . are not inconsistent with the way the kingdom would act.”

Biden is, of course, absolutely correct with respect to both the war on Yemen and the Administration’s feckless response to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a murder that American intelligence officials and most other credible sources believe was carried out with the direct knowledge and approval of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has developed a close relationship with both the President and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

With respect to the Khashoggi murder, the evidence against the Saudi regime generally and the Crown Prince in particular is overwhelming to the point where it is simply dishonest for the Trump Administration or anyone else to deny that he was murdered on the direct orders of the man who, at present, stands to become the next King of Saudi Arabia and who already wields considerable power in the Kingdom thanks to the fact that his father King Salman has given much of his authority to his son and heir to do with as he wishes. Any effort to deny these truths is quite simply an exercise in utter hypocrisy and dishonest, which of course is hardly new for this Administration.

American support for the war on Yemen, meanwhile, is a prime example of everything wrong with American foreign policy. In the beginning, it was perhaps motivated by both blind allegiances to the idea that we ought to back so-called allies even when we don’t have an obligation to do so and by the idea that the Saudi war on Yemen was in some sense a proxy war against Iran. In the first case, it has resulted in the refusal of both the Obama and Trump Administrations to hold our supposed friends in Saudi Arabia accountable for the numerous human rights violations they and their allies were committing in the name of that war from the beginning. At the same time, the war was and is seen by many inside both Administrations, and many outside analysts as a way of engaging against Iran given the fact that the Houthi rebels that are the primary target of the war are loosely allied with Iran. While the United States is not directly involved in the conflict, our support for the Saudis and their allies from the United Arab Emirates is as close to involvement as one can get without actually putting American boots on the ground. From the beginning it was a war of choice started by the Saudis and our involvement, albeit on the sidelines, has also been a conscious choice notwithstanding the fact that there are no American interests implicated in the conflict and that, arguably, American interests are being harmed the longer the war is allowed to continue and the deeper Yemen is plunged into the kind of chaos that will inevitably turn it into the same kind of breeding ground for terrorists that we saw in pre-9/11 Afghanistan and more recently in Syria and Libya.

At some point down the line, I’m afraid, we are going to pay a price for turning a blind eye to the war crimes and human rights violations that the Saudis and Emiratis are committing with our full support in their war on Yemen. What that price will be is unclear at this point, but it could include everything from the establishment of an Iranian-backed beachfront on the Arabian Peninsula to a breeding ground for a whole new generation of terrorists that will direct their aim at the United States and other Western targets. At that point, we’ll wonder why they’re so mad at us, and most people won’t even realize that it was our own support for this genocidal war that created a new generation of enemies. For that reason alone, Trump’s veto of this resolution, while understandable from the point of view of the seemingly never-ending push and pull between Congress and the Executive Branch over war powers and foreign policy, is inexcusable.

For all these reasons it is good to see the former Vice-President speak out against these unwise and dangerous policies. Hopefully, others will soon joi him.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Iran, Joe Biden, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Good.

    This is why I would be perfectly fine with Biden, even if not excited compared to the other candidates. He’s able to at least get the easy stuff right. Huge improvement over the Trumpers.

    I don’t know if America wants a bold new vision for the future, or just a return to sanity and a chance to catch our breath. The previous status quo gave Trump an opening, though.

    But, Yemen, yeah, we shouldn’t be supporting that.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    The sometimes awkward old white guy from Delaware doesn’t look so bad when compared to the trash from Queens…

  3. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    Good, also.

    Biden wouldn’t be my first or second choice, but he would be a steady hand, especially on foreign policy. Biden would a roll-back from Trump’s shenanigans to basically a status quo ante, not the firm rebuke as we would get with other D candidates, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Between the Anita Hill hearings and his handsiness, Biden is obviously not without flaws, but compared to Trump he’s a saint.

    As to Yemen, I have a pet idea that is unproven and likely unprovable: the US military and foreign policy realists realized that Iraq War 2 basically handed Iraq to the Iranians as a consequence (Curveball and Chalabi were quite clever). So, a balancing of the books needed to happen and to assuage and mollify the HoS, Sunnis in general, and the Sunni GCC members specifically.

    So, we kinda sorta pitched in with the Saudis in the Yemen proxy war vs. the Houthi as recompense. I understand the impulse – it is not really in our interest to side with either Sunni or Shi’a Islam, so we try to split the middle. Again: totally unproven, just my take.

    But as a consequence a crap ton of non-combatant civilians have been killed with ordinance we supplied and with our military assistance.

    Layer that with anti-Iranian (and thus perceived anti-Shi’a) bias in any Republican or xenophobe old enough to remember the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

    It is past time to disengage in Yemen.

  4. Robert C says:

    Typical Biden, takes low hanging fruit.

    Why not condemn Saudi Arabia for killing 37 terrorists, some who may have been dissidents.

    Why not publicly state there is no role for military intervention in Venezuela.

    Joe “Pence is a good guy” Biden will lose to Trump. On FP, he’s Trump lite.

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  5. de stijl says:

    @Robert C:

    Biden will lose to Trump.

    Trump is at 43% approval and that is his highest rating since early 2017. Sitting President, stable to positive economy, very low unemployment, relative peace – Trump has not been able to crack 50% ever.

    Support for Trump is ridiculously inelastic compared to past presidents. People who approve, approve hard; people who disapprove, disapprove just as hard and there’s little to no sway in the baseline approval numbers. And there’s more disapprovers than approvers.

    Trump loses to basically any fairly competent D nominee. This is 2008 redux.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Robert C:

    Typical Biden, takes low hanging fruit.

    It’s sad that this is better than the current president, or some of the other candidates pursuing the nomination, but I’ll give him full credit there.

    Joe “Pence is a good guy” Biden will lose to Trump. On FP, he’s Trump lite.

    I have no idea if he would win or lose — the race is unlike any other in my lifetime, thankfully — and I hope the Democrats voting in the primary are on the same page with America regarding whether they want a bold new vision of the future, or a return to the pre-Trump status quo.

    But, he’s not Trump-lite. That’s just stupid.

    ——
    “That’s just stupid” does double duty here, both a criticism of Bobby C’s claim, and an evaluation of what a Trump-lite foreign policy would be (just stupid, as opposed to breathtakingly idiotic and counterproductive).

  7. Robert C says:

    @Gustopher:

    Biden’s FP vs Trumps

    Slave to AIPAC and Israel, check
    Beholden to Saudi Arabia, check
    Saber rattling against Iran, check
    Saber rattling again ask Hizbolla, check
    Saber rattling against Venezuela, check
    Saber rattling against Russia, check

    No change, just different boss.

  8. de stijl says:

    @Robert C:

    Well then, who do you support and why?

    (Why am I engaging? The likelihood this goes badly wrong is very high. But, there is a slim chance this doesn’t go bonkers awry and we might have a reasonable discussion, so I’m going to go for it. Please not a BernieBro!)

  9. Andy says:

    Better late than never.