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With Legal Deadline Approaching, Young and Shaheen Lead Bipartisan Letter on Yemen to Secretary of State

August 31, 2018
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Senator Todd Young 1-5-18U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), along with seven other Senators, today sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the administration to comply with the law by submitting a certification related to the humanitarian crisis and war in Yemen.

Senators Young and Shaheen worked successfully to include a version of their legislation in the annual defense bill, which President Trump recently signed into law. Section 1290 requires the Secretary of State to submit a written, detailed, and unclassified certification related to Yemen no later than September 12, 2018. The law requires the administration to make a certification related to the efforts of the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to end the war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and protect civilians.

The letter follows a United Nations report and recent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians.

“We believe this humanitarian crisis and the threats to our interests will only worsen the longer the civil war continues. The deeply tragic and troubling airstrike on August 9th, which reportedly killed dozens of people—most of whom were children—and the continued Iranian-backed ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia only heighten our concerns. Based on this, we believe America’s national security interests and our humanitarian principles demand that we redouble our efforts to press all parties to end the civil war, protect civilians, and provide full and unfettered humanitarian access,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “In accordance with the law, we look forward to reviewing your written, detailed, and unclassified certification no later than September 12, 2018.”

In addition to an ISIS presence, Yemen is the headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is widely viewed as al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate. A hearing that Senator Young convened earlier this year explored the connection between food insecurity and national security.

The law requires the Secretary of State to certify that the governments of Saudi Arabia and UAE are undertaking a number of actions. If the Secretary of State cannot make these repeated, written, and unclassified certifications, the law prohibits the U.S. from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions exclusively focused on the civil war. The provision includes a national security waiver the administration could utilize. However, that waiver can only be utilized after the administration first identifies, in writing, why the certification cannot be made and what steps the administration plans to take to bring the Saudi and UAE governments into compliance. The provision also includes a detailed requirement for Yemen-related briefings to Congress and requires the administration to submit to Congress a strategy for Yemen.

In addition to Senators Young and Shaheen, the letter was also signed by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We write to you regarding Section 1290 of H.R. 5515, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-232), which President Trump signed into law on August 13, 2018.

As you know, Yemen is suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, an estimated 22 million people—three-quarters of Yemen’s population—require assistance. Eighteen million people are food insecure, and more than 8 million are in danger of starvation. Nearly half of all children in Yemen are stunted and 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

The ongoing civil war has caused or exacerbated these horrific humanitarian conditions. Iran and other nefarious actors have capitalized on the instability resulting from the civil war to threaten the U.S., our partners, and our interests. We believe this humanitarian crisis and the threats to our interests will only worsen the longer the civil war continues. The deeply tragic and troubling airstrike on August 9th, which reportedly killed dozens of people—most of whom were children—and the continued Iranian-backed ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia only heighten our concerns. Based on this, we believe America’s national security interests and our humanitarian principles demand that we redouble our efforts to press all parties to end the civil war, protect civilians, and provide full and unfettered humanitarian access.

That is why our legislation, which ultimately became Section 1290 of the NDAA, enjoys such broad, bipartisan, and bicameral support. It is worth noting that both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved versions of our legislation. Subsequently, NDAA Conferees from both chambers decided to include the provision in the final NDAA, which was then approved by the full Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by the President.

Section 1290 provides leverage that the administration can use to hold our security partners accountable to their commitments and further U.S. interests, principles, and objectives in Yemen. Within 30 days, this statute requires you to submit a certification to Congress regarding the actions of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen. We note that the provision provides a national security waiver. However, if you utilize this waiver, we look forward to reviewing the report as required in subsection (a)(2)(B). In accordance with the law, we look forward to reviewing your written, detailed, and unclassified certification no later than September 12, 2018.

Thank you for your distinguished service to our nation.

Sincerely,

CC:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Mark Green

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