Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

Exclusive: Congressman Ro Khanna Talks Yemen, Gaza, and War Powers (Paid Subscribers)

Important Context spoke with Rep. Ro Khanna about a Gaza Ceasefire and the U.S. strikes in Yemen.

BEFORE YOU READ ON: Important Context is pleased to bring you our first exclusive content for paid subscribers: a 15-minute video interview with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California about the developing situations in Gaza and Yemen. Going forward, we will occasionally feature content only accessible to paid subscribers. Our written reporting, however, will remain free, including the piece about the interview in this post.

Also, one other bit of news: If you read the Washington Post on Jan. 10, you may have noticed that we got a mention in a story about Substack and are planning to move off of the platform. This decision was driven by a number of factors including a concern over some of the content featured on the platform. In any case, our planned move is not happening imminently, and your subscriptions will not be affected when it does.

It was the question heard round the internet. As the U.S. continued its assault on the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, President Biden was asked by a reporter on Thursday if the U.S. strikes were “working” to deter the group from attacking ships in the Red Sea and candidly acknowledged that they were not.

“Well, when you say ‘working’ are they stopping the Houthis? No,” the president said. “Are they going to continue? Yes.”

Important Context caught up with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) today to discuss the president’s statement, the humanitarian crisis and violence in Gaza, and presidential war powers.

WAIT!!! Before you continue reading this post, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. Important Context depends on support from readers like you! Paid subscribers can comment on posts and will have access to video content going forward.

"The president is admitting the obvious that they are not working, that’s what the Gulf allies are telling us,” Khanna said of the remarks. “I know he's saying he wants to continue but the question is: What's the strategy? What's the endgame?"

A ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems, which oversees laws related to the military and defense budget, as well as a member of the House Oversight Committee, Khanna is one of the few key voices in the Democratic Party calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, putting him at odds with the Biden administration and majority of his colleagues. Khanna has also called the strikes in Yemen “unconstitutional.”

Explaining his characterization to Important Context, Khanna noted that “The president has an affirmative obligation to come to Congress when he’s bombing another country” and that “The only exception is if it’s a national emergency and something is in our imminent self-defense.” The strikes on the Houthis, Khanna argues, do not fall under this exception.

“The president’s had the time to go to the U.N., to talk to Canadian, British, Australian leaders,” Khanna said. “He certainly has the time to come to Congress.”

Challenging the executive branch over foreign intervention is a fight Khanna is familiar with. In 2019, he shepherded a war powers resolution through the House to end U.S. military involvement in Yemen’s brutal civil war, which saw America aiding an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia, wage a brutal combing and starvation campaign against the Houthis, who ousted Yemen’s internationally recognized government between 2014 and 2015. It is an achievement Khanna still touts today.

While Khanna did not initially call for a ceasefire in Gaza in the wake of the October 7 terrorist attack carried out by Hamas militants, believing Israel needed to bring those responsible to justice, he quickly pivoted as the violence escalated.

“This went on and on, and they degraded Hamas’ military capability and I thought, okay, now it’s just civilians who are dying in too large numbers, and a humanitarian crisis, and I also saw that the Qataris were successful in negotiating the release of hostages,” Khanna explains. “And I thought once there was that temporary ceasefire, that should have continued so we could’ve secured the release of all hostages and have a tentative peace.”

Today, he is small group a handful of Democrats vocally calling for an end to the fighting. Some of his colleagues have been targeted for similar positions, most notably Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar(D-MN), who are both facing primary challengers backed by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, as it is commonly referred to.

Khanna did not mince words discussing these challenges, telling Important Context he is backing the incumbents.

“I think they draw the ire of many people because they are women of color of Muslim faith, and that gives them much more scrutiny in American political life,” he said bluntly. “But I think both of them will win their elections, and it will be a bit futile to be going after them when we should be focused on making sure Donald Trump doesn’t return to the White House and building every Democratic coalition vote rather than having the coalition fight amongst itself—which would only be to the advantage of Donald Trump.”

To watch the full interview, join as a paid subscriber for as little as $5 a month or $55 a year.

Thank you for reading Important Context. This post is public so feel free to share it.


Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to Important Context to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.