WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee markup of H.J.Res 37, a war powers resolution on American involvement in Yemen:
“The Committee just heard testimony about the crisis in Yemen… about the death, disease, and displacement of millions that this destructive conflict has caused. And in my view, it’s incumbent on this Committee and this body to do everything we can to put a stop to it. We need to push all parties toward a political solution.
“Let me explain why I think this measure, introduced by Mr. Khanna of California, will help us do that.
“Now, in last year’s Defense Authorization, Congress required the Administration to certify that the Saudis and Emiratis were taking real steps to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from their military operations in Yemen.
“In the period of time before the certification was due, attacks against civilians rose sharply. According to the International Red Cross, August was the most violent month in 2018 in Yemen with nearly 500 people killed in just nine days.
“Since 2015, the coalition has undertaken 18,000 airstrikes—that’s one every 99 minutes if you do the math. Fully one third of those have hit non-military targets. One in three. This isn’t just a statistic. One of those “one in three” was a school bus in northern Yemen with 40 children on it. That’s not acceptable.
“So I was stunned, frankly, that in September the Administration certified that the Saudis and Emiratis were indeed taking these steps—these so-called “demonstrable actions” to reduce civilian deaths. The Administration simply could have waived the requirement. The law allowed that. But they didn’t. They essentially told us not to believe our eyes.
“Let me be clear: we have real strategic interests in that part of the world. Iran continues to destabilize the region, and their support for the Houthis is only part of their strategy to bleed their regional adversaries. But I do not support providing assistance that we know is being used to kill civilians. And so if the Administration won’t demand any sort of accountability from the Saudis and Emiratis, the work then falls to the Congress.
“The Pentagon cut off refueling as a matter of policy, but that could be reversed at any time. This resolution would cut off refueling as a matter of law.
“It also sends a clear message to the Administration, to our partners in the Gulf, and to our adversaries that Congress won’t sit back and shirk our responsibilities when it comes to foreign policy. It’s time to have the debates about how, when, and where the U.S. military is engaged around the world. This resolution is sparking that debate.
“So I will support moving this measure to the floor.”
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