Feinstein, Warren, Colleagues to Biden Admin: Use All Tools to End Saudi Coalition’s Blockade of Yemen
May 20 2021
Washington-Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a group of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden regarding the Saudi-led coalition's use of blockade tactics in Yemen that have prevented food, medicine, and other crucial supplies from reaching millions. In the letter, the lawmakers urge President Biden to take immediate and decisive action to leverage all U.S. influence and tools to pressure Saudi Arabia to unconditionally and immediately end its blockade tactics.
"We request that you leverage all influence and tools available, including the potential impact on pending weapons sales, U.S.-Saudi military cooperation, and U.S.-Saudi ties more broadly, to demand that Saudi Arabia immediately and unconditionally stop the use of blockade tactics. The current commercial fuel import standoff must end today and be decoupled from ongoing negotiations," wrote the lawmakers.
For nearly seven years, Yemen has been embroiled in a devastating civil war that has completely destabilized the country. The conflict has consumed the entire nation and spiraled into the world's leading humanitarian crisis. The United Nations (UN) estimates that close to 80 percent of Yemen's 31 million citizens – more than 24 million people – are in need of assistance and protection. More than three million people have been displaced, and experts estimate that over 230,000 people have died during the war, including tens of thousands of civilian casualties and at least 130,000 who have died due to a lack of health services and widespread famine.
Since 2015, as a part of the civil war in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition has prevented crucial resources from reaching people in need. In 2015, Saudi Arabia began positioning warships in Yemeni waters and shut down access to the nation's air and land access ports. Blockade tactics have been used repeatedly, preventing vital food, medicine, fuel, and essential supplies from reaching sick and starving Yemeni people. The most recent iteration of this back-and-forth between the warring actors has halted the importation of all commercial fuel needed by nearly two-thirds of the population in northern Yemen. It has negatively impacted food transporters and processors, hospitals, schools, and businesses. Nations and experts from across the globe have decried these blockade tactics since they began in 2015.
President Biden's administration has taken several steps to address the conflict in Yemen, including reversing the Trump administration's designation of Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, announcing an end to U.S. support for Saudi-led "offensive" operations, and resuming critical humanitarian assistance to northern Yemen.
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Warren, the letter was also signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
This letter is supported by Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), American Friends Service Committee, Churches for Middle East Peace, Freedom Forward, Demand Progress, Charity and Security Network, Just Foreign Policy, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Massachusetts Peace Action, New Jersey Peace Action, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Peace Action, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) CODEPINK, DC Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Action Corps, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Saudi American Justice Project, Yemeni Alliance Committee, the United Methodist Church - Church of Board and Society, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), National Council of Churches, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries.
Full text of the letter is available here.