The Yemen Peace Project (YPP) has learned that the White House is expected to sign off on the Pentagon’s request for the United States to support the Saudi- and Emirati-led offensive to take control of the seaport and city of al-Hudaydah, which is currently controlled by the Houthi-Saleh alliance. It is our understanding that a major attack on al-Hudaydah is therefore imminent. In addition to providing support for the coalition in the forms of “surveillance, intelligence, refueling and operational planning,” the US administration is also reportedly considering direct US military engagement against the Houthis as part of this offensive. The YPP joins a broad coalition of NGOs, US lawmakers, and representatives of international organizations in calling on President Trump to withhold American support for any offensive against al-Hudaydah.
Speaking in Washington last week, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, clearly said that it is the UN’s position that “no military operations should be undertaken” in al-Hudaydah. The International Rescue Committee warned, “any disruption of these port facilities would have a catastrophic impact on the people of Yemen – denying food and medicine to civilians already suffering immeasurably.”
Seventy percent of imports and humanitarian aid enter the country through al-Hudaydah. Escalating the conflict in this part of the country will cut off that lifeline and threaten the lives of millions of Yemeni civilians, particularly the 7.3 million already on the brink of famine. Should the coalition move forward with the offensive, thousands of civilians are likely to be killed, injured, and displaced. The United Nations reports that the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts to capture smaller cities on the Red Sea coast have already displaced more than 48,000 civilians.
US participation in this offensive not only risks further US complicity in the coalition's violations of international humanitarian law and possible war crimes, but also risks embroiling the US in a costly military campaign with little to no chance of strategic victory, and exacerbating security vacuums that extremist groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are eager to fill. US and coalition escalation against the Houthis is also likely to increase Iranian influence in Yemen. Iran views the rebel movement as a cheap ally in its drive to indirectly confront Saudi Arabia. While Iran has little to lose from the US escalating military involvement in Yemen, America’s entrapment in Yemen’s civil war would benefit Iran substantially.
The planned offensive will provide limited strategic benefits for the coalition, erode the possibility of a political settlement, and undermine US strategic interests in the region, while imposing a potentially unbearable burden on the Yemeni people. We urge President Trump to withhold support for the offensive and pressure the coalition to call it off, and we urge members of Congress to use all available means to prevent the offensive from going forward.