REPS LIEU, DEUTCH AND WILSON LEAD BIPARTISAN LETTER TO SEC BLINKEN ON ENDING YEMEN BLOCKADE
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a letter with Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge Saudi Arabia to lift restrictions on commercial and humanitarian imports into Yemen. The restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, causing price inflation, food insecurity, economic collapse and the failure of public services in the country, where nearly 50,000 people are already starving to death. The letter comes shortly after a group of more than 70 Democrats in Congress urged President Biden to encourage the Saudi government to end the blockade.
In the letter, the Members write:
Dear Secretary Blinken:
We write to express our concern about restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition on commercial and humanitarian imports into Yemen and ask that you urgently push for them to be lifted.
Since 2015, the restrictions imposed by the coalition have critically exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The interference, delay, and outright blocking of commercial goods and humanitarian assistance shipped to Yemen’s ports is a principal cause of price inflation, food insecurity, economic collapse, and the failure of public services in Yemen. These measures do not interrupt the supply of Iranian and other weapons to the Houthis, especially given the establishment of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) in 2016.
At times, the economic warfare practiced by the Saudi-led coalition, the Republic of Yemen government, and the Houthis has culminated in even more acute crises, particularly concerning fuel. The Houthis are guilty of widely reported black market manipulation of fuel supplies and diversion of customs revenues which, pursuant to the Stockholm Agreement, were intended for the payment of public sector salaries. These actions have themselves worsened the humanitarian crisis and undermined prospects for a more comprehensive political settlement. However, we do not regard the coalition’s actions in response – namely, its refusal to grant clearance to 14 fuel ships to berth in Hodeidah between late December 2020 and late March 2021 – as constructive or legitimate. Prices have skyrocketed as a result, rippling across all sectors of the humanitarian response and pushing millions toward the brink of famine. The World Food Program recently indicated that fuel scarcity could imminently trigger an escalation of the conflict.
We appreciate the Biden administration’s commitment to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and resolve the underlying conflict that drives it. The administration has taken responsible steps that will position the US to help to broker a political settlement to the conflict despite the Houthis’ continued rejection of dialogue and lack of concessions toward peace. At this moment, the Houthis’ offensive on Marib threatens to re-displace hundreds of thousands of Yemenis – most of whom specifically sought refuge in Marib to escape Houthi aggression and repression. The Houthis should immediately end their assault on Marib and engage in a political process to resolve the conflict.
We acknowledge the Saudi and Yemeni governments’ decision on March 25 to let four fuel ships dock at Hodeidah, which indicates that the administration’s engagement is bearing fruit. The Saudi government’s recent pledge to send fuel products to the Yemeni government is another positive development. However, none of this excuses the Saudi-led coalition’s continued obstruction of commercial and humanitarian imports to Yemen, which serves no legitimate humanitarian, political, or security purpose. Ending this practice will boost Yemen’s economy, de-escalate the conflict, and prevent this humanitarian catastrophe from worsening - all important U.S. objectives.
We understand that the conflict in Yemen is complex and affects broader political and security interests, but we nonetheless ask that you stress the need to remove import restrictions immediately on humanitarian grounds. Congress will remain an important partner as you, Special Envoy Lenderking, and others work to chart a path toward peace in Yemen.
An overview of Congressman Lieu’s previous work on Yemen:
In February 2021, Congressman Lieu issued a statement applauding the Biden Administration’s announcement that it was ending U.S. support for military operations in Yemen.
In July 2020, the House passed Congressman Lieu’s amendment to the FY21 NDAA that created critical reporting requirements for the administration on Yemen. The amendment was included in the final bill that became law following a presidential veto override on January 1, 2021.
In December 2019, the House passed its final version of the NDAA, which included an amendment from Congressman Lieu modeled after his Yemen Refueling Prohibition Act, which prohibited refueling assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for two years.
In March 2019, Congressmen Lieu and Malinowski led a letter from 13 Members of Congress urging Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to investigate reports that members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are recruiting and deploying child soldiers in the conflict.
In January 2019, Rep. Lieu, Rep. Yoho and Rep. Malinowski introduced the Yemen Refueling Prohibition Act, which would stop the United States from providing the in-flight refueling of Saudi or Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducting missions in Yemen. The legislation comes after years of failures by both the Obama and Trump Administrations to mitigate the U.S.’s role in civilian casualties from coalition-led airstrikes.
In November 2018, Rep. Lieu issued a statement of support for the Senate's efforts to advance a bipartisan resolution to revoke U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
In August 2018, Congressman Lieu sent a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General calling for an investigation into whether U.S. personnel supporting Saudi and Emeriti coalition operations in Yemen are violating DoD regulations, the Law of Armed Conflict, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal statutes or international law. The letter comes after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus in Yemen last week. Rep. Lieu has long called for more scrutiny into the coalition’s actions in Yemen, questioning the U.S.’s efforts to ensure Saudi and Emeriti forces are actively mitigating civilian casualties and avoiding worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
In July 2018, Congressmen Lieu and Ted Yoho (R-FL) sent a letter to Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders to express support for a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provision that would establish certification requirements for U.S. assistance to Gulf partners operating in Yemen.
In December 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the 2018 NDAA, which included two provisions on Yemen that Rep. Lieu authored, into law. Congressman Lieu authored provisions that will bring critical congressional oversight to the conflict in Yemen for the first time. Sec. 1265 requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are abiding by their commitments in Yemen. Sec. 1275 requires the President to submit a detailed report that contains a military and diplomatic strategy for Yemen.
In July 2017, the House of Representatives passed Congressman Lieu’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are abiding by their commitments in Yemen to avoid civilian casualties.
In May 2017, Congressmen Lieu and Ted Yoho (R-FL) called on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce to review the proposed sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. Congressman Lieu also introduced legislation to place conditions on all air-to-ground munitions sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The three conditions relate to avoiding civilian casualties, facilitating humanitarian aid, and targeting U.S.-designated terrorist organizations such as AQAP and ISIS.
In April 2017, Congressman Lieu led a letter with a bipartisan group of 30 Members of Congress to Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson requesting information related to the operational conduct of the Royal Saudi Air Force in Yemen.
In November 2016, Congressman Lieu led the Lantos Human Rights Commission in holding a hearing on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
In August 2016, Congressman Lieu led a bipartisan group of 64 Members of Congress in sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to postpone the sale of new arms to Saudi Arabia. The letter raised concerns regarding the Saudi-led Coalition’s killing of civilians. Previously, Congressman Lieu had repeatedly raised similar concerns, sending letters to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries John Kerry and Ash Carter. He also introduced legislation to establish new guidelines for weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
In April 2016, Congressman Lieu introduced a joint resolution in the House (H.J. RES 90) to provide limitations on the transfer of air-to-ground munitions from the United States to Saudi Arabia.
In September 2015, Congressman Lieu sent a letter to General Joseph F. Dunford, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requesting further information about civilian deaths as a result of Saudi Arabian led coalition airstrikes in Yemen. In the letter, Congressman Lieu requested that the United States cease aiding coalition airstrikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates that they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.
In August 2015, Congressman Lieu called for the U.S. to halt its participation in coalition airstrikes in Yemen.