A group of U.S. Senators have called on President Joe Biden to take “immediate and decisive action” in ending the Saudi Arabian blockade of essential items such as food, medicine, and fuel meant to aid Yemen. The conflict has been unrelenting since 2014, leading the World Food Programme to label the crisis in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to UNICEF, the devastating blockade is projected to have caused nearly 2.3 million children under five years old to suffer from acute malnutrition and 400,000 people suffering from severe malnutrition. While the devastation has been widespread against Yemeni civilians, governments such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have continued supporting the Saudi-led intervention, despite the egregious human rights violations. Despite the U.S. State Department spokesperson claiming there is no blockade, investigators reject this claim.
Calls to end the blockade follow President Biden’s declaration of stopping U.S. military involvement in the Yemen Civil War. However, calls to end support for the Saudi-led war efforts are nothing new, despite the continuous support by U.S. Presidents for Saudi Arabia since 2015, under former President Barack Obama. A 2019 vote from the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously approved the removal of American military involvement in the Yemeni Civil War. But unfortunately, former President Donald Trump vetoed the unanimous vote and continued supporting Saudi Arabia.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres claimed that in 2021, 20 million Yemeni people would need humanitarian assistance, and an unimaginable 16 million people are expected to go hungry. The blockade will drastically increase the suffering in Yemen. In response to the U.S. aiding Saudi Arabia, CNN reports that a group of Democratic senators have pleaded that President Joe Biden takes “immediate and decisive action” to end Saudi Arabia’s “blockade tactics.”
The Democratic senator’s plea follows a bipartisanship letter, signed by Democrat Senators Antony Blinken, Chris Murphy, and Jeanne Shaheen joined Republican Senators Todd Young and Jerry Moran in asserting the need to make up for the 2.5 billion dollars extra need for Yemen this year. The bipartisan Senators wrote in a May 4th letter that “we urge you to support another donor’s conference that fills that funding shortfall, as doing so could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Yemenis.”
Internationally, the UN Security Council supports notions of peace and has called for both Houthi rebels and Pro-Hadi Security forces to halt fighting in Yemen immediately. The international community believes the cease-fire is the only way to end the six-year conflict and military escalation by Iranian forces supporting the Houthi rebels.
The blockade leads to horrendous human rights violations and widespread famine. There is no excuse for Houthi forces using banned weapons like antipersonnel landmines, recruiting child soldiers, and indiscriminately firing artillery into cities like Taizz and into Saudi Arabia. However, the blockade affects those most vulnerable, the civilians who already live in the most impoverished country in the Middle East. While the Houthi forces receive supplies from allied countries like Iran, ordinary civilians pay the ultimate price. With the blockade, the death toll will continue to rise, from what the UN reports as an astounding 233,000 deaths, 131,000 from lack of food, health services and infrastructure. Without widespread objection and pressure from Saudi Arabia’s allied countries — United States, United Kingdom, and Canada — there is little incentive for stopping the blockade, as Saudi Arabia sees it as a way to weaken Houthi forces.
CNN Investigators have looked into the U.S. rejections of a Saudi blockade and have found the American rejection of a Saudi blockade was fabricated. In March, Saudi warships were used to prevent oil tankers from docking in the Houthi-controlled Hudaydah port, which included 14 vessels that the United Nations had approved. The Senators claim that blocking the fuel importation impacts northern Yemen, where around two-thirds of the Yemeni population lives, as it “negatively impacted food transporters and processors, hospitals, schools, and businesses.”
Joe Biden must follow the Democratic senator’s rejection of Saudi Arabia’s blockade, or the human suffering in Yemen could continue for the seventh straight year.