Constraining U.S. foreign policy by enforcing current law: a series on Congress’s options to limit arms sales and aid to Saudi Arabia, part 3

Jacques Singer-Emery
Content Type
Journal Article
Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
Issue Number
Publication Date
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
This is the third of a three-part essay series on the different paths the U.S. Congress might take to limit Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Credible allegations of Saudi war crimes and human rights abuses in Yemen should trigger the FAA and Leahy Laws to prevent U.S. aid from reaching the Saudi-led coalition, as discussed in part 2 of this series. However, the U.S. Constitution forbids Congress from unilaterally issuing orders to any executive agency, including the Defense and State Departments. Accordingly, both the Foreign Assistance Control Act (FAA) and the Leahy laws place the onus on the executive to identify and respond to gross violations of human rights. Thus far, the executive has turned a blind eye to the Saudi coalition’s actions. Congress could independently find that Saudi Arabia has engaged in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” by commissioning its own investigations. But if the executive remains unconvinced, Congress only has two options to enforce the FAA and the Leahy laws: impeach the President, or obtain a court order requiring the executive withhold aid and arms pursuant to these laws. The first action is unlikely to occur here, but the second is a viable option. To secure a court order, Congress must show that the executive’s refusal to follow the FAA and the Leahy laws uniquely injures the legislative branch in a way that only the courts can remedy.
Government, International Law, Law, War Crimes, Weapons , Courts, Legislation
Political Geography
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations