The Senate debated on Tuesday a resolution introduced by Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Yemen.
The surprising support the resolution won from 44 U.S. Senators handed a big win to Iran, which is engaged in a hot war with Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula. And it was a huge slap in the face to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who was meeting with President Trump in the White House as the Senate debated the motion on the floor.
It also showed the extreme damage recent scandals involving NSA snooping and political bias at the FBI have done to the credibility of the United States government, which lobbied heavily against the resolution.
Let there be no doubt: the only reason the United States has any interest in the civil war that has been raging in Yemen since 2012 is because of the Iranian regime support for the Houthi rebels.
The Houthis have fired Iranian-supplied missiles at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. They have targeted civilian airports, as well as royal palaces. As I wrote earlier this year, imagine for an instant if a hostile regional power were to stir up a civil war in Mexico or Canada, with the ultimate aim of destabilizing the U.S.?
For that is the unabashed goal of the Iranian regime: destabilize Saudi Arabia, which Tehran sees as the main check on its effort to dominate the Persian Gulf, control the free flow of oil, and establish its land bridge through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to Israel’s borders.
Sometimes you wonder at the intelligence of members of Congress. Seriously.
What part about a nuclear-armed Iran in control of the Middle East and threatening Israel do the backers of this resolution not get?
The Sanders resolution, backed initially by predictably left-wing members of the Democrat caucus, also won the fulsome support of Utah Republican Mike Lee, who joined Sanders in a mutual love-fest on the Senate floor last week to blast the Trump administration for “the unauthorized Middle East war that your United States government is supporting.”
The two Senators invoked the Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution, which Lee said “was designed to stop secret, unauthorized military activities such as these.”
Sanders boasted that their resolution was aimed to “force the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from an unauthorized war.”
The War Powers Resolution gives the administration a 60-day window to withdraw troops engaged in overseas combat operations, unless it seeks explicit Congressional approval through a declaration of war.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, however, the United States has repeatedly deployed U.S. forces overseas under a broad authority granted by Congress known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.
The AUMF, which became law on September 14, 2001, gave the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or those who harbored them – a very broad definition. Indeed, U.S. troops are today deployed to over 100 countries around the world where they act, for the most part, as trainers and advisors.
But sometimes those trainers can get ambushed, as happened in October when four U.S. soldiers on a routine training exercise were killed by ISIS fighters in Niger.
The Niger attack is largely responsible for reigniting the debate over the AUMF. During a second ISIS attack in December in the Lake Chad basis, 11 ISIS fighters were killed – this time without U.S. or Nigerien casualties.
The Sanders-Lee resolution sought essentially to revoke the AUMF and return to the more narrow authorization defined under the pre-war-on-terrorism statute. This would put the dysfunctional U.S. Senate in charge of U.S. foreign and military policy.
Mike Lee argued that this is what the Constitution requires. But Congress settled that argument in 2001 when it passed the AUMF. Lee, who wasn’t a Senator then, wants to reopen the case, and has no problem teaming up with Senate Democrats who couldn’t care a whit about the Constitution and whose only goal in life is to impeach President Trump.
Debate on the Sanders-Lee measure heated up last week when Secretary of Defense James Mattis weighed in, vigorously opposing the bill in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Mattis noted that the U.S. began providing limited support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in 2015. “Neither President Obama nor President Trump authorized the use of U.S. military force against the Houthis,” he wrote. “Our support takes the form of intelligence sharing, military advice, and logistical support, including air-to-air refueling. This non-combat support is focused on… reducing the risk of civilian casualties.”
Indeed, the United Nations recently called the Yemen proxy war “the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time.” While that might surprise many Americans, given the lack of media coverage of Yemen and the glut of coverage of Syria, what Matthis has tried to do is to help the Saudis become more precise in their targeting, to avoid mass civilian casualties.
But first and foremost, this is all about checking Iran.
Sanders argued in a “fact sheet” accompanying the resolution that “claims of Iran’s influence over the Houthis have been overblown.”
I guess he wasn’t around when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stood in front of an Iranian-built missile at Andrews Air Force base that had been intercepted by the Saudis en route to the Riyadh international airport.
Senator Sanders has become a predictable ally of the thugs of Tehran, a “useful idiot” for the mullahs and their IRGC enablers.
He supports the Iran nuclear deal, that enshrines Tehran’s capabilities to make nuclear weapons, and opposes new sanctions on the Iranian regime.
In the new Middle East according to Bernie, a nuclear-capable Shiite Empire will rule from Afghanistan to Lebanon, and control the overwhelming majority of OPEC’s oil exports and the oil export routes through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
Israel will be surrounded by that Shite Empire from the North, the East, and the South. And the United States will become Belgium—with nuclear weapons.
Welcome to Bernie-World. It’s not one I’d like to live in.
Lamentably, Bernie convinced four Republicans in addition to Mike Lee to buy into his vision: Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Shame on them.