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Yemen: Most of us don't know where that is but we Americans have been participating in a war there since 2015. In a surprise move, the 116th Congress recently put a resolution on President Trump's desk that would LIMIT our participation in that war. In this episode, learn about our recent history in Yemen: Why are we involved? When did our involvement start? What do we want from Yemen? And why is Congress suddenly pursuing a change in policy? In the second half of the episode, Jen admits defeat in a project she's been working on and Husband Joe joins Jen for the thank yous.Please Support Congressional Dish - Quick Links
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Article: Hurricane Michael upgraded to a Category 5 at time of U.S. landfall, NOAA, April 19, 2019.
Article: US carries out first airstrikes in Yemen in nearly 3 months by Ryan Browne, CNN, April 1, 2019.
Article: The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by Joyce Lee and Dalton Bennett, The Washington Post, April 1, 2019.
Article: Trump revokes Obama rule on reporting drone strike deaths, BBC News, March 7, 2019.
Article: US carried out 36 airstrikes in Yemen last year by Andrew Kennedy, The Defense Post, January 7, 2019.
Article: See no evil: Pentagon issues blanket denial that it knows anything about detainee abuse in Yemen by Alex Emmons, The Intercept, January 7, 2019.
Report: Senate bucks Trump's Saudi approach by Jeff Abramson, Arms Control Association, January/February 2019.
Article: Saudi strikes, American bombs, Yemeni suffering by Derek Watkins and Declan Walsh, The New York Times, December 27, 2018.
Article: The wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis got a friend in the White House by David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler, and Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times, December 8, 2018.
Report: Saudi lobbyists bout 500 nights at Trump's DC hotel after 2016 election by John Bowden, The Hill, December 5, 2018.
Article: Hidden toll of US drone strikes in Yemen: Nearly a third of deaths are civilians, not al-Quaida by Maggie Michael and Maad al-Zikry, Military Times, November 14, 2018.
Article: Jamal Khashoggi's friends in Washington are in shock by Scott Nover, The Atlantic, October 12, 2018.
Report: Catastrophic Hurricane Michael strikes Florida Panhandle, National Weather Service, October 10, 2018.
Article: Yemen's President Hadi heads to US for medical treatment, Aljazeera, September 3, 2018.
Article: Bab el-Mandeb, an emerging chokepoint for Middle East oil flows by Julian Lee, Bloomberg, July 26, 2018.
Report: YEM305: Unknown reported killed, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, March 29, 2018.
Article: Yemen: Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed, Aljazeera, December 10, 2017.
Article: In Yemen's secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates by Maggie Michael, AP News, June 22, 2017.
Report: Yemen: UAE backs abusive local forces, Human Rights Watch, June 22, 2017.
Article: What we know about Saudi Arabia's role in 9/11 by Simon Henderson, Foreign Policy, July 18, 2016.
Report: Yemen: Background and U.S. relations by Jeremy M. Sharp, Congressional Research Service, February 11, 2015.
Article: How al Qaeda's biggest enemy took over Yemen (and why the US government is unlikely to support them) by Casey L. Coombs and Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, January 22, 2015.
Report: Yemen protests erupt after fuel price doubled, Aljazeera, July 30, 2014.
Article: U.S. charges saudi for 2002 oil tanker bombing by MAREX, Feburary 6, 2014.
Report: "Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda": The civilian cost of US targeted killings in Yemen, Human Rights Watch, October 22, 2013.
Article: Yemen: Opposition leader to be sworn in Saturday by Reuters, The New York Times, December 7, 2011.
Article: Yemen's Saleh signs deal to give up power by Marwa Rashad, Reuters, November 23, 2011.
Article: Yemen's leader agrees to end 3-decade rule by Kareem Fahim and Laura Kasinof, The New York Times, November 23, 2011.
Article: Yemeni president's shock return throws country into confusion by Tom Finn, The Guardian, September 23, 2011.
Article: Yemen: President Saleh 'was injured by palace bomb', BBC News, June 23, 2011.
Article: Government in Yemen agrees to talk transition by Laura Kasinof, The New York Times, April 26, 2011.
Article: Hundreds take to streets in Yemen to protest by Faud Rajeh, The New York Times, February 16, 2011.
Article: U.S. plays down tensions with Yemen by Eric Schmitt, The New York Times, December 17, 2010.
Article: Cables depict range of Obama diplomacy by David E. Sanger, The New York Times, December 4, 2010.
Article: Yemen's drive on Al Qaeda faces international skepticism by Mona El-Naggar and Robert F. Worth, The New York Times, November 3, 2010.
Article: Op-Ed: The Yemeni state against its own people by Subir Ghosh, Digital Journal, October 11, 2010.
Roundtable Summary: Reform priorities for Yemen and the 10-Point agenda, MENAP, Chatham House, February 18, 2010.
Article: As nations meet, Clinton urges Yemen to prove itself worthy of aid by Mark Landler, The New York Times, January 27, 2010.
Article: After failed attack, Britain turns focus to Yemen by John F. Burns, The New York Times, January 1, 2010.
IMF.org: Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
Middle East Institute: Addressing the Crisis in Yemen: Strategies and Solutions
Open Knowledge Repository: Leveraging Fuel Subsidy Reform for Transition in Yemen
US Dept. of Treasury: International Monetary Fund
- 1:06:30 Rep. Michael McCaul (TX):This resolution stretches the definition of war powers hostilities to cover non-U.S. military operations by other countries. Specifically, it reinterprets U.S. support to these countries as ‘‘engagement in hostilities.’’ This radical reinterpretation has implications far beyond Saudi Arabia. This precedent will empower any single Member to use privileged war powers procedures to force congressional referendums that could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries around the world.
- 1:14:30 Rep. Barbara Lee (CA): Yes, Madam Speaker, I voted against that 2001 resolution, because I knew it was open-ended and would set the stage for endless wars. It was a blank check. We see this once again today in Yemen. We must repeal this 2001 blank check for endless wars. Over the past 18 years, we have seen the executive branch use this AUMF time and time again. It is a blank check to wage war without congressional oversight.
- 1:21:30 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): My motivation for this bill is very simple. I don’t want to see 14 million Yemenis starve to death. That is what Martin Griffith had said at the U.N., that if the Saudis don’t stop their blockade and let food and medicine in, within 6 months we will see one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world.
- 7:09:00 Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): Finally, an issue that has long been a concern to many of us—conservatives and progressives—is that this war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional. Article I of the Constitution clearly states it is Congress, not the President, that has the power to send our men and women into war—Congress, not the President. The Framers of our Constitution, the Founders of this country, gave the power to declare war to Congress—the branch most accountable to the people—not to the President, who is often isolated from the reality of what is taking place in our communities. The truth is—and Democratic and Republican Presidents are responsible, and Democratic and Republican Congresses are responsible—that for many years, Congress has not exercised its constitutional responsibility over whether our young men and women go off to war. I think there is growing sentiment all over this country from Republicans, from Democrats, from Independents, from progressives, and from conservatives that right now, Congress cannot continue to abdicate its constitutional responsibility.
- 7:14:45 Sen. Bob Corker (TN): I have concerns about what this may mean as we set a precedent about refueling and intelligence activities being considered hostilities. I am concerned about that. I think the Senator knows we have operations throughout Northern Africa, where we are working with other governments on intelligence to counter terrorism. We are doing refueling activists in Northern Africa now, and it concerns me—he knows I have concerns—that if we use this vehicle, then we may have 30 or 40 instances where this vehicle might be used to do something that really should not be dealt with by the War Powers Act.
- 7:49:06 Sen. Todd Young (IN): We don’t have much leverage over the Houthis. We have significant leverage over the Saudis, and we must utilize it.
- 7:58:30 Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK): The Sanders-Lee resolution is, I think, fundamentally flawed because it presumes we are engaged in military action in Yemen. We are not. We are not engaged in military action in Yemen. There has been a lot of discussion about refueling. I don’t see any stretch of the definition that would say that falls into that category.
- 8:01:00 Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK): Saudi Arabia is an important Middle Eastern partner. Its stability is vital to the security of our regional allies and our partners, including Israel, and Saudi Arabia is essential to countering Iran. We all know that. We know how tenuous things are in that part of the world. We don’t have that many friends. We can’t afford to lose any of them.
- 8:04:30 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): It is important to note some-thing that we take for granted in the region—this now long-term detente that has existed between the Gulf States and Israel, which did not used to be something you could rely on. In fact, one of the most serious foreign policy debates this Senate ever had was on the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia back in the 1980s. The objection then was that by empowering Saudi Arabia, you were hurting Israel and Israeli security. No one would make that argument today because Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in trying to figure out a way to calm the tensions in the region and, of course, provide some balance in the region, with the Iranian regime on the other side continuing to this day to use inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric about the future of Israel. So this is an important partnership, and I have no interest in blowing it up. I have no interest in walking away from it. But you are not obligated to follow your friend into every misadventure they propose. When your buddy jumps into a pool of man-eating sharks, you don’t have to jump with him. There is a point at which you say enough is enough.
- 8:06:00 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): Muhammad bin Salman, who is the Crown Prince, who is the effective leader of the country, has steered the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia off the rails. Folks seem to have noticed when he started rounding up his political opponents and killing one of them in a consulate in Turkey, but this has been ongoing. Look back to the kidnapping of the Lebanese Prime Minister, the blockade of Qatar without any heads-up to the United States, the wholesale imprisonment of hundreds of his family members until there was a payoff, the size of which was big enough to let some of them out. This is a foreign policy that is no longer in the best interests of the United States and cannot be papered over by a handful of domestic policy reforms that are, in fact, intended to try to distract us from the aggressive nature of the Saudis’ foreign policy in the region.
- 8:08:15 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): I am appreciative that many of my colleagues are willing to stand up for this resolution today to end the war in Yemen. I wish that it weren’t because of the death of one journalist, because there have been tens of thousands who have died inside Yemen, and their lives are just as important and just as worthwhile as Jamal Khashoggi’s life was, as tragic as that was. But there is a connection between the two, which is why I have actually argued that this resolution is in some way, shape, or form a response to the death of Jamal Khashoggi, for those who are primarily concerned with that atrocity. Here is how I link the two: What the Saudis did for 2 weeks was lie to us, right? In the most bald-faced way possible. They told us that Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate, that he had gotten out of there alive, that they didn’t know what happened, when of course they knew the entire time that they had killed him, that they had murdered him, that they had dismembered his body. We now know that the Crown Prince had multiple contacts all throughout the day with the team of operatives who did it. Yet they thought we were so dumb or so weak— or some combination of the two—that they could just lie to us about it. That was an eye-opener for a lot of people here who were long-term supporters of the Saudi relationship because they knew that we had trouble. They knew that sometimes our interests didn’t align, but they thought that the most important thing allies did with each other was tell the truth, especially when the truth was so easy to discover outside of your bilateral relationship. Then, all of a sudden, the Saudis lied to us for 2 weeks—for 2 weeks—and then finally came around to telling the truth because everybody knew that they weren’t. That made a lot of people here think, well, wait a second—maybe the Saudis haven’t been telling us the truth about what they have been doing inside Yemen. A lot of my friends have been supporting the bombing campaign in Yemen. Why? Because the Saudis said: We are hitting these civilians by accident. Those water treatment plants that have been blowing up—we didn’t mean to hit them. That cholera treatment facility inside the humanitarian compound—that was just a bomb that went into the wrong place, or, we thought there were some bad guys in it. It didn’t turn out that there were. It turns out the Saudis weren’t telling us the truth about what they were doing in Yemen. They were hitting civilian targets on purpose. They did have an intentional campaign of trying to create misery. I am not saying that every single one of those school buses or those hospitals or those churches or weddings was an attempt to kill civilians and civilians only, but we have been in that targeting center long enough to know—to know—that they have known for a long time what they have been doing: hitting a lot of people who have nothing to do with the attacks against Saudi Arabia. Maybe if the Saudis were willing to lie to us about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, they haven’t been straight with us as to what is happening inside Yemen, because if the United States is being used to intentionally hit civilians, then we are complicit in war crimes. And I hate to tell my colleagues that is essentially what the United Nations found in their most recent report on the Saudi bombing campaign. They were careful about their words, but they came to the conclusion that it was likely that the Saudi conduct inside Yemen would amount to war crimes under international law. If it is likely that our ally is perpetuating war crimes in Yemen, then we cannot be a part of that. The United States cannot be part of a bombing campaign that may be—probably is— intentionally making life miserable for the people inside of that country.
- 8:14:00 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): There is no relationship in which we are the junior partner—certainly not with Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia can push us around like they have over the course of the last several years and in particular the last several months, that sends a signal to lots of other countries that they can do the same thing—that they can murder U.S. residents and suffer almost no consequences; that they can bomb civilians with our munitions and suffer no consequences. This is not just a message about the Saudi relationship; this is a message about how the United States is going to interact with lots of other junior partners around the world as well. Saudi Arabia needs us a lot more than we need them, and we need to remind folks of that over and over again. Spare me this nonsense that they are going to go start buying Russian jets or Chinese military hardware. If you think those countries can protect you better than the United States, take a chance. You think the Saudis are really going to stop selling oil to the United States? You think they are going to walk away from their primary bread winner just because we say that we don’t want to be engaged in this particular military campaign? I am willing to take that chance. We are the major partner in this relationship, and it is time that we start acting like it. If this administration isn’t going to act like it, then this Congress has to act like it.
- 8:44:15 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Many of my colleagues will argue—in fact some of them have argued just within the last few minutes—that we are somehow not involved in a war in Yemen. My distinguished friend and colleague, the Senator from Oklahoma, came to the floor a little while ago, and he said that we are not engaged in direct military action in Yemen. Let’s peel that back for a minute. Let’s figure out what that means. I am not sure what the distinction between direct and indirect is here. Maybe in a very technical sense—or under a definition of warfare or military action that has long since been rendered out- dated—we are not involved in that, but we are involved in a war. We are co-belligerents. The minute we start identifying targets or, as Secretary James Mattis put it about a year ago, in December 2017, the minute we are involved in the decisions involving making sure that they know the right stuff to hit, that is involvement in a war, and that is pretty direct. The minute we send up U.S. military aircraft to provide midair refueling assistance for Saudi jets en route to bombing missions, to combat missions on the ground in Yemen, that is our direct involvement in war.
- 8:48:00 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Increasingly these days, our wars are high-tech. Very often, our wars involve cyber activities. They involve reconnaissance, surveillance, target selection, midair refueling. It is hard—in many cases, impossible—to fight a war without those things. That is what war is. Many of my colleagues, in arguing that we are not involved in hostilities, rely on a memorandum that is internal within the executive branch of the U.S. Government that was issued in 1976 that provides a very narrow, unreasonably slim definition of the word ‘‘hostilities.’’ It defines ‘‘hostilities’’ in a way that might have been relevant, that might have been accurate, perhaps, in the mid-19th century, but we no longer live in a world in which you have a war as understood by two competing countries that are lined up on opposite sides of a battlefield and engaged in direct exchanges of fire, one against another, at relatively short range. War encompasses a lot more than that. War certainly encompasses midair refueling, target selection, surveillance, and reconnaissance of the sort we are undertaking in Yemen. Moreover, separate and apart from this very narrow, unreasonably slim definition of ‘‘hostilities’’ as deter- mined by this internal executive branch document from 1976 that contains the outdated definition, we our- selves, under the War Powers Act, don’t have to technically be involved in hostilities. It is triggered so long as we ourselves are sufficiently involved with the armed forces of another nation when those armed forces of another nation are themselves involved in hostilities. I am speaking, of course, in reference to the War Powers Act’s pro- visions codified at 50 USC 1547(c). For our purposes here, it is important to keep in mind what that provisions reads: ‘‘For purposes of this chapter [under the War Powers Act], the term ‘introduction of United States Armed Forces’ includes the assignment of members of such Armed Forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities.’’ In what sense, on what level, on what planet are we not involved in the commanding, in the coordination, in the participation, in the movement of or in the accompaniment of the armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the civil war in Yemen?
- 9:57:15 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): In March of this year, I led a letter to the Department of Defense with my colleague Senator JACK REED of Rhode Island, along with many of our colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stating our concern regarding U.S. support for Saudi military operations against the Houthis in Yemen and asking about the DOD’s involvement, apparently without appropriate notification of Congress, and its agreements to provide refueling sup- port to the Saudis and the Saudi coalition partners. We were concerned that the DOD had not appropriately documented reimbursements for aerial re- fueling support provided by the United States. Eight months later—just days ago— the Department of Defense responded to our letter and admitted that it has failed to appropriately notify Congress of its support agreements; it has failed to adequately charge Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for fuel and refueling assistance. That admission 8 months after our inquiry is a damning indictment. These errors in accounting mean that the United States was directly funding the Saudi war in Yemen. It has been doing it since March of 2015.
- Donald Trump: I would not be in favor of stopping from spending $110 billion, which is an all-time record, and letting Russia have that money, and letting China have that money. Because all their going to do is say, that's okay, we don't have to buy it from Boeing, we don't have to buy it from Lockheed, we don't have to buy it from Ratheon and all these great companies. We'll buy it from Russia and we'll buy it from China. So what good does that do us?
- David Satterfield: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
- Wess Mitchell: Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
18:00 David Satterfield: We all agree, as does the Congress, that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is unacceptable. Last month, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided $1 billion to Yemen's humanitarian response appeal, and this complements the US government pledge of $87 million and more than $854 million contributed since beginning of fiscal year 2017.
19:45 Wess Mitchell: Turkey is a 66 year member of the NATO alliance and member of the defeat ISIS coalition. It has suffered more casualties from terrorism than any other ally and hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees. It supports the coalition through the use of Incirlik air base through its commitment of Turkish military forces against Isis on the ground in (Dibick? al-Bab?) And through close intelligence cooperation with the United States and other allies. Turkey has publicly committed to a political resolution in Syria that accords with UN Security Council. Resolution 2254. Turkey has a vested strategic interest in checking the spread of Iranian influence and in having a safe and stable border with Syria. Despite these shared interests, Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran. Ankara has sought to assure us that it sees this cooperation as a necessary stepping stone towards progress in the Geneva process, but the ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin district, arrangements to which America was not privy, is gravely concerning. Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase, to, to purchase the Russian S 400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions under section 231 of CAATSA and adversely impact Turkey's participation in the F-35 program. It is in the American national interest to see Turkey remains strategically and politically aligned with the west.
- Robert Jenkins: Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, & Humanitarian Assistance
- David Satterfield: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
- Robert Karem: Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Nominee and former Middle East Adviser to Vice President Cheney
9:30 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Well, Yemen has always faced significant socioeconomic challenges. A civil war, which began with the Houthis armed takeover of much of the country in 2014 and their overthrow of Yemen's legitimate government in January 2015, has plunged the country into humanitarian crisis.
17:25 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our first witness is acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador David Satterfield. Ambassador Satterfield is one of the most distinguished, one of our most distinguished diplomats. He most recently served as director general, the multinational force and observers in the Sinai peninsula and previously served as US Abassador to Lebanon.
17:45 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our second witness is Robert Jenkins, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for USA ID Bureau for Democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance. Mr. Jenkins, recently mark 20 years at USAID and previously served as the Director of Office of Transition Initiatives.
18:15 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our third witness is Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Robert Kerem. Prior to his Senate confirmation last year, Mr. Karem served as National Security of Staff of Vice President Cheney and then as National Security Advisor to the House, majority leader's Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.
20:15 David Satterfield: US military support serves a clear and strategic purpose to reinforce Saudi and Mrid self defense in the face of intensifying Houthi and Iranian enabled threats and to expand the capability of our Gulf partners to push back against Iran's regionally destabilizing actions. This support in turn provides the United States access and influence to help press for a political solution to the conflict. Should we curtail US military support? The Saudis could well pursue defense relationships with countries that have no interest in either ending the humanitarian crisis, minimizing civilian casualties or assisting and facilitating progress towards a political solution. Critical US access to support for our own campaign against violent extremists could be placed in jeopardy.
30:00 Robert Karem: Conflict in Yemen affects regional security across the Middle East, uh, and threatens US national security interests, including the free flow of commerce and the Red Sea. Just this month, the Houthi, his attack to Saudi oil tanker and the Red Sea threatening commercial shipping and freedom of navigation and the world's fourth busiest maritime choke point, the Bab el Mandeb.
32:00 Robert Karem: The Defense Department is currently engaged in two lines of effort in Yemen. Our first line of effort and our priority is the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS in Yemen, two terrorist organizations that directly threaten the United States, our allies and our partners. To combat AQIP, AQAP, and ISIS, US forces in coordination with the UN recognized government of Yemen are supporting our regional key counter terrorism partners in ongoing operations to disrupt and degrade their ability to coordinate, plot and recruit for external terrorist operations. Additionally, US military forces are conducting airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen pursuant to the 2001 a authorization for the use of military force to disrupt and destroy terrorist network networks. Our second line of effort is the provision of limited noncombat support to the Saudi led coalition in support of the UN recognized government of Yemen. The support began in 2015 under President Obama and in 2017 president Trump reaffirmed America's commitment to our partners in these efforts. Fewer than 50 US military personnel work in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi led coalition advising and assisting with the defense of Saudi territory, sharing intelligence and providing logistical support, including aerial refueling.
35:45 Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): Mr. Karem. I'm gonna Start with you. Um, in regards to the US military assistance that we give to the kingdom, you said that is to embolden their capacity and to reduce noncombatant casualties. Last March, the CENTCOM commander General Votel stated that the United States government does not track the end results of the coalition missions. It refills and supports with targeting assistance. So my question to you is, how do you determine that we are effectively reducing the non combatant casualties if we don't in fact track the results of the kingdoms military actions? Robert Karem: Senator, thank you. Um, it's correct that we do not monitor and track all of the Saudi aircraft, um, uh, a loft over Yemen. Uh, we have limited personnel and assets in order to do that. Uh, and CENTCOM's focus is obviously been on our own operations in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Syria. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): I understand that, but my question is, our stated mission is to reduce noncombat and casualties. If we don't track, how do we determine that? Robert Karem: So I think one of our stated missions is precisely that. Um, there are multiple ways that I think we do have insight into, uh, Saudi, uh, targeting behavior. Um, we have helped them with their processes. Um, we have seen them implement a no strike list. Um, and we have seen their, their, their uh, capabilities, uh, improved. So the information is based upon what the Saudis tell you, how they're conducting the mission rather than the after impact of the mission. I think our military officers who are resident in Saudi Arabia are seeing how the Saudis approach, uh, this, this effort that took getting effort. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): But you know, obviously the proof is in the results and we don't know whether the results are, there are not fair statement. Robert Karem: I think we do see a difference in how the Saudis have operated in Yemen, how they operate. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): I understand how they operate but we don't know whether in fact that's been effective. The United Nations Security Council panel of experts on Yemen concluded in recent reports that the cumulative effect of these airstrikes on civilian infrastructure demonstrates that even with precaution, cautionary measures were taken, they were largely inadequate and ineffective. Do you have any information that disagrees with that assessment? Robert Karem: Senator, I think the assessment of, uh, our central command is that the Saudi, uh, and Emirati targeting efforts, uh, have improved, um, uh, with the steps that they've taken. We do not have perfect understanding because we're not using all of our assets to monitor their aircraft, but we do get reporting from the ground on what taking place inside Yemen.
40:15 Sen. Rand Paul (KY): Ambassador Satterfield. I guess some people when they think about our strategy might question the idea of our strategy. You know, if your son was shooting off his pistol in the back yard and doing it indiscriminately and endangering the neighbors, would you give hmi more bullets or less? And we see the Saudis acting in an indiscriminate manner. They've bombed a funeral processions, they've killed a lot of civilians. And so our strategy is to give them more bombs, not less. And we say, well, if we don't give him the bomb, somebody else will. And that's sort of this global strategy, uh, that many in the bipartisan foreign policy consensus have. We have to, we have to always be involved. We always have to provide weapons or someone else will and they'll act even worse. But there's a, I guess a lot of examples that doesn't seem to be improving their behavior. Um, you could argue it's marginally better since we've been giving them more weapons, but it seems the opposite of logic. You would think you would give people less where you might withhold aid or withhold a assistance to the Saudis to get them to behave. But we do sort of the opposite. We give them more aid. What would your response be to that? David Satterfield: Senator, when I noted in my remarks that progress had been made on this issue of targeting, minimizing or mitigating civilian casualties, that phrase was carefully chosen into elaborate further on, uh, my colleagues remarks, uh, Robert Karem. We do work with the Saudis and have, particularly over the last six to nine months worked intensively on the types of munitions the Saudis are using, how they're using, how to discriminate target sets, how to assure through increased loiter time by aircraft that the targets sought are indeed clear of collateral or civilian damage. This is new. This is not the type of interaction… Sen. Rand Paul (KY): And yet the overall situation in Yemen is a, is a disaster. David Satterfield: The overall situation is extremely bad. Senator. Sen. Rand Paul (KY): I guess that's really my question. We had to rethink...And I think from a common sense point of view, a lot of people would question giving people who misbehave more weapons instead of giving them less on another question, which I think is a broad question about, you know, what we're doing in the Middle East in general. Um, you admitted that there's not really a military solution in Yemen. Most people say it's going to be a political solution. The Houthis will still remain. We're not going to have Hiroshima. We're not going to have unconditional surrender and the good guys win and the bad guys are vanquished. Same with Syria. Most people have said for years, both the Obama administration and this administration, probably even the Bush administration, the situation will probably be a political solution. They will no longer, it's not going to be complete vanquished meant of the enemy. We're also saying that in Afghanistan, and I guess my point as I think about that is I think about the recruiter at the station in Omaha, Nebraska, trying to get somebody to sign up for the military and saying, please join. We're going to send you to three different wars where there is no military solution. We're hoping to make it maybe a little bit better. I think back to Vietnam. Oh, we're going to take one more village. If we take one more village, they're going to negotiate and we get a little better negotiation. I just can't see sending our young men and women to die for that for one more village. You know the Taliban 40% in Afghanistan. Where are we going to get when they get to 30% don't negotiate and when we it, it'll be, it'll have been worth it for the people who have to go in and die and take those villages. I don't think it's one more life. I don't think it's worth one more life. The war in Yemen is not hard. We talk all about the Iranians have launched hundreds of missiles. Well, yeah, and the Saudis have launched 16,000 attacks. Who started it? It's a little bit murky back and forth. The, the Houthis may have started taking over their government, but that was a civil war. Now we're involved in who are the good guys of the Saudis, the good guys or the others, the bad guys. Thousands of civilians are dying. 17 million people live on the edge of starvation. I think we need to rethink whether or not military intervention supplying the Saudis with weapons, whether all of this makes any sense at all or whether we've made the situation worse. I mean, humanitarian crisis, we're talking about, oh, we're going to give my, the Saudis are giving them money and I'm like, okay, so we dropped, we bomb the crap out of them in this audience. Give them $1 billion. Maybe we could bomb last maybe part of the humanitarian answers, supplying less weapons to a war. There's a huge arms race going on. Why do the Iranians do what they do? They're evil. Or maybe they're responding to the Saudis who responded first, who started it? Where did the arms race start? But we sell $300 billion a weapons to Saudi Arabia. What are the Iranians going to do? They react. It's action and reaction throughout the Middle East. And so we paint the Iranians as the, you know, these evil monsters. And we just have to correct evil monster. But the world's a much more complicated place back and forth. And I, all I would ask is that we try to get outside our mindset that we, uh, what we're doing is working because I think what we're doing hasn't worked, and we've made a lot of things worse. And we're partly responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
48:30 David Satterfield: The political picture on the ground in Yemen has changed radically with the death, the killing of a Ali Abdullah Saleh, uh, with the fragmentation of the General People's Congress. All of that, while tragic in many of its dimensions, has provided a certain reshuffling of the deck that may, we hope, allow the United Nations to be more effective in its efforts.
1:05:45 Sen. Todd Young (IN): Approximately how many people, Mr. Jenkins require humanitarian assistance in Yemen? David Jenkins: 22 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): What percent of the population is that? David Jenkins: Approximately 75% was the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance increase from last year. It increased by our, we're estimating 3.5 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): And how much has it increased? David Jenkins: About 3.5 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): Okay. How many are severely food insecure? David Jenkins: 17.8 million. Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many children are severely malnourished? David Jenkins: 460,000 Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many people lack access to clean water and working toilets? David Jenkins: We estimate it to be around 16 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): Does Yemen face the largest cholera outbreak in the world? David Jenkins: It does. Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many cholera cases have we seen in Yemen? David Jenkins: A suspected over a 1 million cases. Sen. Todd Young (IN): And how many lives has that cholera outbreak claim? David Jenkins: Almost 2100.
1:46:00 Robert Jenkins: I do know that the vast majority of people within that, the majority of people in need, and that 22 million number live in the northern part of the country that are accessible best and easiest by Hodeidah port, there is no way to take Hodeidah out of the equation and get anywhere near the amount of humanitarian and more importantly, even commercial goods into the country.
- Gerald Feierstein: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Former Ambassador to Yemen (2010-2013)
1:45 Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): On September 10th of last year, President Obama announced to the American public his plan to degrade and destroy the terrorist group ISIL. While making his case for America's role in the fight against ISIL, the president highlighted our strategy in Yemen and held it up as a model of success to be emulated in the fight against ISIL. Yet about a week later, the Iran backed Houthis seized control of the capital and the government. Despite this, the administration continued to hail our counter-terror operations in Yemen as a model for success, even though we effectively had no partner on the ground since President Hadi was forced to flee. But perhaps even more astonishingly in what can only be described as an alarmingly tone deaf and short sighted, when Press Secretary Ernest was asked at a press briefing if this model was still successful after the Yemeni central government collapsed and the US withdrew all of our personnel including our special forces, he said yes, despite all indications pointing to the contrary. So where do we stand now? That's the important question. President Hadi was forced to flee. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of over 10 Arab nations and Operation Decisive Storm, which so far has consisted of airstrikes only, but very well could include ground forces in the near future.
4:45 Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): Iran has reportedly dispatched a naval destroyer near Yemen in a game of chicken over one of the most important shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden. This area is a gateway between Europe and the Middle East and ran was not be allowed to escalate any tensions nor attempt to disrupt the shipping lanes.
13:30 Rep. David Cicilline (NJ): I think it's safe to say that the quick deterioration of the situation in Yemen took many people here in Washington by surprise. For many years, Yemen was held up as an example of counter-terrorism cooperation and it looked as if a political agreement might be achieved in the aftermath of the Arab spring. The United States poured approximately $900 million in foreign aid to Yemen since the transition in 2011 to support counter-terrorism, political reconciliation, the economy and humanitarian aid. Now we face a vastly different landscape and have to revise our assumptions and expectations. Furthermore, we risk being drawn deeply into another Iranian backed armed conflict in the Middle East.
17:30 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): Following the deposition of Yemen's longtime autocratic Saleh in 2011, the US supported an inclusive transition process. We had national dialogue aimed at rebuilding the country's political and governmental institutions and bridging gaps between groups that have had a long history of conflict. Yemen's first newly elected leader, President Hadi made clear his intentions to cooperate closely with the United States.
18:00 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): Yemen, the poorest country on the peninsula, needed support from the international community. The United States has long viewed Yemen as a safe haven for all Qaeda terrorists, and there was alarming potential for recruitment by terrorist groups given the dire economic conditions that they faced. In fact, the US Department of Homeland Security considers al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate, most likely the al Qaeda affiliate, most likely to attempt transnational attacks against the United States.
18:30 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): While the national dialogue was initially viewed as successful, the process concluded in 2014 with several key reforms still not completed, including the drafting of the new constitution. The Hadi government had continued to face deep opposition from Yemen's northern tribes, mainly the Shiite Iranian backed Houthi rebels, over the past year. The Houthis, in coordination with tribes and military units still loyal to Saleh, began increasing their territorial control, eventually moving in to Sanaa. Saleh had long been thought to have used his existing relationship to undermine the Hadi government. Houthis are well trained, well funded, and experienced fighters, having fought the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia in 2009.
23:15 Gerald Feierstein: I greatly appreciate this opportunity to come before you today to review recent developments in Yemen and the efforts that the United States is undertaking to support the government of Yemen under president Rabu Mansour Hadi and the Saudi led coalition of Operation Decisive Storm, that is aimed at restoring the legitimate government and restarting the negotiations to find peaceful political solutions to Yemen's internal conflict.
26:45 Gerald Feierstein: To the best of our understanding, the Houthis are not controlled directly by Iran. However, we have seen in recent years, significant growth and expansion of Iranian engagement with the Houthis. We believe that Iran sees opportunities with the Houthis to expand its influence in Yemen and threatened Saudi and Gulf Arab interests. Iran provides financial support, weapons training, and intelligence of the Houthis and the weeks and months since the Houthis entered Sanaa and forced the legitimate government first to resign and ultimately to flee from the capitol, we have seen a significant expansion of Iranian involvement in Yemen's domestic affairs.
27:30 Gerald Feierstein: We are also particularly concerned about the ongoing destabilizing role played by former President Saleh, who since his removal from power in 2011 has actively plotted to undermine President Hadi and the political transition process. Despite UN sanctions and international condemnation of his actions, Saleh continues to be one of the primary sources of the chaos in Yemen. We have been working with our Gulf partners and the international community to isolate him and prevent the continuation of his efforts to undermine the peaceful transition. Success in that effort will go a long way to helping Yemen return to a credible political transition process.
42:00 Gerald Feierstein: From our perspective, I would say that that Yemen is a unique situation for the Saudis. This is on their border. It represents a threat in a way that no other situation would represent.
52:30 Gerald Feierstein: I mean, obviously our hope would be that if we can get the situation stabilized and get the political process going again, that we would be able to return and that we would be able to continue implementing the kinds of programs that we were trying to achieve that are aimed at economic growth and development as well as supporting a democratic governance and the opportunity to try to build solid political foundations for the society. At this particular moment, we can't do that, but it's hard to predict where we might be in six months or nine months from now.
1:10:00 Gerald Feierstein: When the political crisis came in Yemen in 2011, AQAP was able to take advantage of that and increase its territorial control, to the extent that they were actually declaring areas of the country to be an Islamic caliphate, not unlike what we see with ISIL in Iraq and Syria these days. Because of our cooperation, primarily our cooperation with the Yemeni security forces, uh, we were able to, uh, to defeat that, uh, at a significant loss of a life for AQAP. Uh, as a result of that, they changed their tactics. They went back to being a more traditional terrorist organization. They were able to attack locations inside of, uh, inside of Sanaa and and elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is that, uh, that we, uh, were achieving a progress in our ability to pressure them, uh, and, uh, to keep them on the defensive as opposed to giving them lots of time. And remember in 2009 in 2010, uh, we saw AQAP mount a fairly serious efforts - the underwear bomber and then also the cassette tape effort to attack the United States. After 2010, uh, they were not able to do that, uh, despite the fact that their intent was still as clear and as strong as it was before. And so a while AQAP was by no means defeated and continue to be a major threat to security here in the United States as well as in Yemen and elsewhere around the world, nevertheless, I think that it was legitimate to say that we had achieved some success in the fight against AQAP. Unfortunately what we're seeing now because of the change in the situation again, inside of Yemen, uh, is that we're losing some of the gains that we were able to make, uh, during that period of 2012 to 2014. That's why it's so important that we, uh, have, uh, the ability to get the political negotiation started again, so that we can re-establish legitimate government inside of Sanaa that will cooperate with us once again in this fight against violent extremist organizations.
1:16:45 Rep. Ted Yoho (FL): How can we be that far off? And I know you explained the counter-terrorism portion, but yet to have a country taken over while we're sitting there working with them and this happens. I feel, you know, it just kinda happened overnight the way our embassy got run out of town and just says, you have to leave. Your marines cannot take their weapons with them. I, I just, I don't understand how that happens or how we can be that disconnected. Um, what are your thoughts on that? Gerald Feierstein: You know, it was very, it was very frustrating. Again, I think that, if you go back to where we were a year ago, the successful conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference, which was really the last major hurdle and completion of the GCC initiative, Houthis participated in that. They participated in the constitutional drafting exercise, which was completed successfully. Uh, and so we were in the process of moving through all of the requirements of the GCC initiative that would allow us to complete successfully the political transition. I think there were a combination of things. One, that there was a view on the part of the Houthis that they were not getting everything that they wanted. They were provoked, in our view, by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who never stopped plotting from the very first day after he signed the agreement on the GCC initiative. He never stopped plotting to try to block the political transition, and there was, to be frank, there was a weakness in the government and an inability on the part of the government to really build the kind of alliances and coalition that would allow them to sustain popular support and to bring this to a successful conclusion. And so I think that all through this period there was a sense that we were moving forward and that we believed that we could succeed in implementing this peaceful transition. And yet we always knew that on the margins there were threats and there were risks, and unfortunately we got to a point where the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh, my personal view is that they recognized that they had reached the last possible moment, where they could obstruct the peaceful political transition that was bad for them because it would mean that they wouldn't get everything that they wanted, and so they saw that time was running out for them, and they decided to act. And unfortunately, the government was unable to stop them.
44:30 Farea al-Muslimi: My name as you mentioned, is Farea al-Muslimi, and I am from Wessab, a remote village mountain in Yemen. I spent a year living with an American family and attended an American high school. That was one of the best years of my life. I learned about American culture, managed the school basketball team and participated in trick or treat and Halloween. But the most exceptional was coming to know someone who ended up being like a father to me. He was a member of the U S Air Force and most of my year was spent with him and his family. He came to the mosque with me and I went to church with him and he became my best friend in America. I went to the U.S. as an ambassador for Yemen and I came back to Yemen as an ambassador of the U.S. I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life and took it from miserable to a promising one would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hamid al-Radmi was the target of the drone strike. Many people in Wessab know al-Radmi, and the Yemeni government could easily have found and arrested him. al-Radmi was well known to government officials and even local government could have captured him if the U.S. had told them to do so. In the past, what Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences had. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time. What violent militants had previously failed to achieve one drone strike accomplished in an instant.
1:17:30 Farea al-Muslimi: I think the main difference between this is it adds into Al Qaeda propaganda of that Yemen is a war with the United States. The problem of Al Qaeda, if you look to the war in Yemen, it's a war of mistakes. The less mistake you make, the more you win, and the drones have simply made more mistakes than AQAP has ever done in the matter of civilians.
- Janet Sanderson: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
- Daniel Benjamin: State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator
21:00 Janet Sanderson: The United States continues its regular engagement with the government, including with President Ali, Abdullah Saleh, who's currently, as you know, recovering in Saudi Arabia from his injuries following the June 3rd attack on his compound, the acting president, Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the opposition, civil society activists, and others interested in Yemen's future. We strongly support the Gulf Cooperation Council's initiative, which we believe would lead to a peaceful and orderly political transition. The GCC initiative signed by both the ruling General People's Congress party and the opposition coalition, joint meeting parties. Only president Saleh is blocking the agreement moving forward and we continue to call on him to sign the initiative.
22:30 Janet Sanderson: While most protests in Yemen have been peaceful over the last couple of months, there have been violent clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators and between protesters and government security forces and irregular elements using forced to break up demonstrations. The United States is strongly urged the Yemeni government to investigate and prosecute all acts of violence against protesters.
27:00 Janet Sanderson: We strongly believe that a transition is necessary, that an orderly, peaceful transition is the only way to begin to lead Yemen out of the crisis that it has been in for the last few months.
34:30 Daniel Benjamin: Really, I just want to echo what ambassador Sanderson said. It is vitally important that the transition take place.
1:02:15 Daniel Benjamin: The the view from the administration, particularly from a DOD, which is doing of course, the lion's share of the training, although State Department through anti-terrorism training is doing, uh, uh, a good deal as well, is that the Yemenis are, uh, improving their capacities, that they are making good progress towards, uh, being, able to deal with the threats within their border. But it is important to recognize that, uh, uh, our engagement in Yemen was interrupted for many years. Uh, Yemen, uh, did not have the kind of mentoring programs, the kind of training programs that many of our other counter-terrorism partners had. Um, it was really when the Obama administration came into office that a review was done, uh, in, in March of, uh, beginning in March of 2009, it was recognized that Yemen was a major challenge in the world of counter terrorism. And it was not until, uh, December after many conversations with the Yemenis that we really felt that they were on-board with the project and in fact took their first actions against AQAP. This, as you may recall, was just shortly before the attempted, uh, December 25th bombing of the northwest flight. So this is a military and a set of, uh, Ministry of Interior that is civilian, uh, units that are making good progress, but obviously have a lot to learn. So, uh, again, vitally important that we get back to the work of training these units so that they can, uh, take on the missions they need to.
- David Miliband - British Foreign Secretary
- Hillary Clinton - Secretary of State
- Abu Bakr al-Kurbi - Yemeni Foreign Minister
3:30 David Miliband: And working closely with the government of Yemen, we decided that our agenda needed to cover agreement on the nature of the problem and then address the, uh, solutions across the economic, social, and political terrain. Five key items were agreed at the meeting for the way in which the international community can support progress in Yemen. First, confirmation by the government of Yemen, that it will continue to pursue its reform agenda and agreement to start discussion of an IMF program. The director of the IMF represented at the meeting made a compelling case for the way in which economic reform could be supported by the IMF. This is important because it will provide welcome support and help the government of Yemen confront its immediate challenges.
11:45 Hillary Clinton: The United States just signed a three year umbrella assistance agreement with the government of Yemen that will augment Yemen's capacity to make progress. This package includes initiatives that will cover a range of programs, but the overarching goal of our work is to increase the capacity and governance of Yemen and give the people of Yemen the opportunity to better make choices in their own lives. President Saleh has outlined a 10 point plan for economic reform along with the country's national reform agenda. Those are encouraging signs of progress. Neither, however, will mean much if they are not implemented. So we expect Yemen to enact reforms, continue to combat corruption, and improve the country's investment in business climate.
15:45 Abu Bakr al-Kurbi: This commitment also stems from our belief that the challenges we are facing now cannot be remedied unless we implement this agenda of reforms and the 10 points that her exellency alluded to because this is now a priority number of issues that we have to start with, and I hope this is what will be one of the outcomes of this meeting.
16:30 Hillary Clinton: One of the factors that's new is the IMF's involvement and commitment. the IMF has come forward with a reform agenda that the government of Yemen has agreed to work on.
24:30 Hillary Clinton: We were pleased by the announcement of a cease fire, um, between the Saudis and the Houthis. That should lead, we hope, to broader negotiations and a political dialogue that might lead to a permanent, uh, end to the conflict in the north. It's too soon to tell.
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