Monday, March 26, 2018

Washington and the Quiet War

Recent developments in Washington, some of which received almost no attention from the mainstream media, provide us with a glimpse inside how the current Administration is doing its very best to "stir the pot" in the Middle East.

As background, under the Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war; the first time that Congress declared war was in 1812 against Great Britain and the last Congressional formal declaration of war took in 1942 against Rumania.  Since then, Congress has passed resolutions that authorize the use of military force and has used appropriations to shape U.S. military policy but has not actually dirtied its hands by declaring war.  Here is the pertinent section of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11):

"The Congress shall have power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions"

Once war is declared by Congress, the President as Commander-in-Chief can then direct the military under Article II, Section 2:

"The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."

First, let's look at a recent vote taken in the Senate.  On February 23, 2018, three U.S. Senators, Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) introduced a joint resolution to invoke the War Powers Act to overrule the President and withdraw U.S. troops from a conflict that they believe has not received Congressional approval and is therefore unauthorized.  As it stands currently, U.S. troops refuel Saudi aircraft mid-flight, provide logistical support as well as provide targeting information to the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen.  It has also been reported that the United States conducted 131 airstrikes in Yemen during 2017 and an additional 12 over the past month that were not publicly announced.  

Here is the link to Senate Joint Resolution 54, "A joint resolution to direct the removal of the United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress" and here is a screen capture showing the entire resolution:

On March 20, 2018, the motion to table the motion to discharge the Committee on Foreign Relations to investigate Senate Joint Resolution 54 was taken and the roll call vote turned out as  follows:

Here are the yeas and nays showing that the vote was not split along party lines:

By a 55 to 44 vote, Congress elected to allow the hostilities in Yemen to continue even without its blessing.  Later in this posting, you will see one reason why this motion may have been defeated.  And so, the United States quiet, behind-the-scenes involvement in the Yemen war continues and, as you will see in this posting, is actually accelerating substantially.

While the war in Yemen hasn't received the attention of the mainstream media in the same way that the Syrian war has, it has created significant hardship for millions of Yemeni people.  According to the latest data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently 2,014,026 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen with 89 percent having been displaced for more than a year.  The UNHCR states that 22.2 million people or 75 percent of Yemen's population is not in need of humanitarian assistance thanks to the armed conflict, displacement, famine and outbreaks of disease.  Here is a map from the European Council on Foreign Relations showing the extent of the food insecurity crisis from a year ago:

Here is a map showing how the nation of Yemen is divided along religious lines keeping in mind that Sana'a is under control of the Houthis, an offshoot of Shia Islam (Zaydi sect), which took over the capital in 2014 after demanding a more representative form of government and ejecting Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is now living in Riyadh:

It is also important to keep in mind that Iran is a Shia nation and Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi (an offshoot of Sunni Islam) and that the remaining members of the coalition, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar (now suspended), Bahrain are all Sunni Arab states that aim to restore Mr. Hadi's government and remove any input that Iran may be providing to the Houthis.

Lastly, here is a map from Crucial Threats showing how the nation of Yemen is divided along military lines:

According to Yemen Data Project, between March 26, 2015 when the war began and December 15, 2017, there have been 15,489 aerial bombardments in Yemen.  According to Human Rights Watch, as of November 2017, at least 5,295 civilians had been killed and 8,873 had been wounded although they admit that the civilian casualty count is likely to be much higher.

Now that we've seen the high cost of the war in Yemen, let's look at recent developments, showing how Washington is furthering its agenda in Yemen.  According to a March 22, 2018 news release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (with the moniker "Security Through Global Partnerships"), we find the following:

That's right, Washington is selling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the head of the anti-Houthi coalition, 6,696 TOW 2B missiles worth up to an estimated $670 million.   The United States will also supply technical manuals, essential spares and repair parts, consumables, live fire exercise and ammunition, training and, of course, transportation (i.e. shipping and handling).  There will also be in-country Field Service Representatives.  The proposed sale will "...advance the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's efforts to develop and integrated ground defense capability..." which will "...assist Saudi Arabia to sustain itself in its efforts to maintain stability".  Key to the sale is this:

"The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region."

You will notice that it doesn't say anything about altering the lifespans of the Yemen civilians who will be the ultimate recipients of Washingtons' largesse.

The main beneficiary of this sale is Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Arizona, a company that sold $7.071 billion worth of missiles in 2016, missiles designed with the sole purpose of killing and maiming humanity, the latest year for which data is available.  

...and that's peace, Washington-style.  The quiet war in Yemen grinds on, people continue to starve and die, thanks to our elected ones in Congress who are providing aid to our "friends" in Saudi Arabia whose sole purpose is to turn Iran into dust.

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