June 12, 2018

Menendez, Corker, Murphy, Young, Colleagues Raise Concerns About Imminent Military Operations at Hudaydah, Yemen

WASHINGTONU.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), were joined by 6 of their Senate colleagues in raising concerns over a reported imminent military operation by the Emirati-led coalition to seize the port of Hudaydah.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Senators called on the Trump Administration to step in and work towards resurrecting a political end to the conflict before an attack on the Red Sea port city unleashes a humanitarian catastrophe that the United Nations estimates could cost 250,000 innocent lives.

“We write to express our grave alarm regarding developments in Hudaydah, Yemen.   We are concerned that pending military operations by the UAE and its Yemeni partners will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by interrupting delivery of humanitarian aid and damaging critical infrastructure.  We are also deeply concerned that these operations jeopardize prospects for a near-term political resolution to the conflict,” wrote the Senators.  “Humanitarian organizations and the UN repeatedly have warned that military operations at the port likely would render the area inoperable or at further reduced capacity for weeks, if not months. These are unacceptable consequences for any responsible member of the community of nations. Therefore, we urge you to strongly support Mr. Griffiths’ efforts to negotiate a resolution to this conflict and to encourage all parties to avoid steps that will further impede access by millions of Yemenis to the food, fuel, and medicine they need to survive.” 

As the principal access point for all humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen, the Hudaydah port has been an ongoing point of contention for the three-year old civil war between the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition and Iran-backed rebels.

Already considered one of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, it is calculated that the Yemen conflict has:

  • Left 22.2 million Yemenis – more than 80% of the entire population – requiring humanitarian assistance;
  • Caused the loss of more than 50% of Yemen’s nighttime electricity, a key condition for maintaining hospitals, water supply systems, and communications;
  • Left 8 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation;
  • Produced the largest cholera outbreak in modern history.

During an April 17 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators questioned State and Defense Department witnesses on U.S. policy in Yemen including military operations. 

On May 22, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed bipartisan legislation on Yemen that, among other things, seeks to end the civil war in Yemen and address the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.  The legislation was later included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and currently being considered by the full Senate. 

Joining the Senators in sending the letter were Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Jerry Moran (R-Kan.); and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

A copy of the Senator’s letter can be found HERE and below.

June 12, 2018

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

The Honorable James Mattis

Secretary of Defense

Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis:

We write to express our grave alarm regarding developments in Hudaydah, Yemen. We are concerned that pending military operations by the United Arab Emirates and its Yemeni partners will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by interrupting delivery of humanitarian aid and damaging critical infrastructure. We are also deeply concerned that these operations jeopardize prospects for a near-term political resolution to the conflict. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are U.S. partners facing an unacceptable threat in Yemen. The Houthis – enabled by the Iranian regime – have acquired increasingly sophisticated land and anti-ship missiles that threaten freedom of navigation in vital waterways and terrorize the people of Saudi Arabia. Recent actions by the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on Iranian entities providing illicit materials to the Houthis in Yemen are a welcome and overdue step.  

Over the course of more than three years of war in Yemen, U.S. officials have consistently stated that there is no military solution to this conflict. Senior Saudi and Emirati officials have echoed this. It is therefore urgent for the U.S. to reassert its leadership by supporting UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, encouraging all stakeholders to consider confidence-building measures toward de-escalation of military operations, and swiftly returning to negotiations that will end the suffering of Yemen’s people. Mr. Griffiths announced his intent to present a new framework for peace negotiations in mid-June, having spent the past few months meeting with a broad range of stakeholders in the Yemen war. In April, Mr. Griffiths warned the UN Security Council that an attack on Hudaydah “would, in a single stroke, take peace off the table.” 

During the April 17 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State and Defense Department witnesses noted that the Port of Hudaydah is the principal access point for all humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen, and highlighted the humanitarian implications of even a temporary closure of the port. In a June 10 Wall Street Journal article, the top UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen stated that 250,000 of Hudaydah’s residents could lose their lives during military operations. The UN also reports that 340,000 people could be displaced as forces advance toward the city of Hudaydah. Humanitarian organizations and the UN repeatedly have warned that military operations at the port likely would render the area inoperable or at further reduced capacity for weeks, if not months. These are unacceptable consequences for any responsible member of the community of nations. Therefore, we urge you to strongly support Mr. Griffiths’ efforts to negotiate a resolution to this conflict and to encourage all parties to avoid steps that will further impede access by millions of Yemenis to the food, fuel, and medicine they need to survive. 

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