WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday announced new legislation to limit U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilian casualties and a security vacuum that has empowered our terrorist enemies, al Qaeda and ISIS. The bipartisan legislation will require the president to formally certify that the Government of Saudi Arabia is demonstrating an ongoing effort to target terrorist groups, minimize harm to civilians, and facilitate humanitarian assistance before Congress can consider the sale or transfer of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia

“The United States has no business supplying a military that targets civilians or enables terrorist groups to thrive, but that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in Yemen,” said Murphy. “The Saudis are important partners in the Middle East, but they have continued to disregard our advice when it comes to target selection and civilian protection. We have an obligation to ensure U.S. military support is not being used to kill innocent civilians, and requiring Saudi Arabia to meet these basic conditions should be a no brainer.”

"Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the region, but it's important that our relationship be on the right terms. Their troubling record of human rights abuses, their war in Yemen, and their exportation of extremism deserve close scrutiny if our partnership is to continue,” said Durbin. 

“Thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded in the U.S.-backed war in Yemen,” said Franken. “This is a tragedy that we cannot continue to support. Our bipartisan legislation would help protect innocent civilians and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions. We need to stand up for our values and ensure that the U.S. no longer turns a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of children, women, and men in Yemen.” 

Under current law outlined in the Arms Export Control Act, the sale or transfer of arms to foreign governments by the United States must be proposed by the U.S. State Department and then approved by Congress. If Congress approves the sale, the administration is then permitted to finalize and implement the transfer. The Murphy-Paul legislation will add a step to the approval process by requiring the president to attest that Saudi Arabia is concretely demonstrating its anti-terror efforts and protection of civilians before Congress can consider the sale. The president’s certification will assess whether Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-origin munitions in attacks against civilians in Yemen, how that affects U.S. credibility in the region, and how defense sales to Saudi Arabia contribute to U.S. national security objectives.

Murphy and Paul introduced a similar resolution last year.

Under this joint resolution, the President’s certification must attest the following conditions are met:

1. The Government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are taking all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in the course of military action undertaken in legitimate self-defense. 

2. The Government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are making demonstrable efforts to facilitate distribution of both humanitarian assistance and commercial goods, including commercial fuel and commodities not prohibited by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015).

3. The Government of Saudi Arabia is taking effective measures to target designated foreign terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of its military operations in Yemen.