Yemen policy round-up 4/26

The following is a summary of recent developments relevant to US policy in Yemen. The YPP produces these periodic round-ups for distribution to US government contacts.

Yemen's civil war is now in its third year and shows no sign of resolution, absent pressure from the international community and the United States in particular.

White House approval of Secretary Mattis' request for an escalation of US military support for the Hudaydah port offensive is likely to precipitate full-blown famine in the country and eliminate any remaining incentives for the warring parties to come to the peace table. Below is a quick rundown of recent happenings on the Hill and in the Trump Administration related to Yemen.

House of Representatives

55 members sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump and AG Sessions requesting the legal justification of US involvement in Yemen's war, and urging the administration to receive congressional authorization before launching the Hudaydah offensive.

31 members sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson requesting an assessment of Saudi capabilities before any new PGM sale is approved.

53 members sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson urging him to use diplomatic pressure to re-open the Hudaydah port and prevent famine in Yemen.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he will introduce new Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) focused on the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State to make clear who the president is authorized to target in military operations abroad.


10 members sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Tillerson urging a diplomatic surge to prevent the four famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) issued a statement calling on Saudi Arabia to take specific steps to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Yemen, including not launching the Hudaydah offensive.

Sens. Young (R-IN) and Cardin (D-MD) introduced a bill calling for an urgent diplomatic campaign to prevent millions from starving to death in four famines. Yemen's famine is driven by the Saudi-led coalition's ongoing naval blockade and the Houthi-Saleh alliance interference with aid convoys and jailing of aid workers.

Sens. Murphy (D-CT), Paul (R-KY), Durbin (D-IL), and Franken (D-MN) introduced a bill conditioning air-to-ground munition sales to Saudi Arabia, thereby signaling preemptive opposition to resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to its conduct in Yemen.

The YPP and Arab Center for the Promotion of Human Rights (ACPHR) held a Senate briefing on the situation in Yemen and prospects for peace. Listen here.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Yemen. Watch here.

Trump Administration

Secretary Mattis requested White House approval to increase US military support for the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition offensive on Hudaydah port, which is controlled by the Houthi-Saleh alliance. The offensive is likely to spark full-blown famine as it would cut off the main aid access lifeline to the majority of Yemenis.

38 NGOs sent a letter to President Trump urging him to withhold US military support for the proposed Hudaydah offensive, warning it would result in a humanitarian catastrophe with limited strategic benefits.

The Pentagon clashed with humanitarian aid organizations over the planned military assault on Hudaydah port that is likely to "precipitate famine."

The decision on resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including the $390 million sale of PGMs, now sits with White House. The sale is likely to be approved and face opposition in Congress, as these weapons have been used in attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen.

Responding to a question on possible US support for the Hudaydah offensive, Secretary Mattis stated that the US goal is a political solution to the conflict, for which he reportedly pushed during his trip to Riyadh.

Secretary Mattis stated that Iran is "trying to create Hezbollah in Yemen" despite evidence to the contrary.

US officials also argued that increasing US military force against the Houthis will push them towards negotiations. Rather, further escalation is likely to eliminate any remaining incentives for parties to come to the peace table.

The White House declaration of parts of Yemen as areas of active hostilities has facilitated a dramatic increase in drone strikes against AQAP in the country, which has led to increasing civilian casualties in the process.

More from Yemen

The UN special envoy to Yemen stated that the UN is unequivocally opposed to a military offensive at Hudaydah, while earlier this year the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen said that there is no military solution to the ongoing conflict.

UN experts called for an end to the fighting and naval blockades on Yemen's ports to prevent widespread famine.

Analysis from Andrew Exum on the risks of escalating US military involvement in Yemen's civil war.

Analysis from the YPP on the Trump administration's Yemen policy in its first 100 days, which could be worsening an already calamitous status quo.

Analysis from Farea Al-Muslimi and Adam Baron on the limits of US military power against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Foreign Policy obtained the administration's budget request for the State Department, which would "end foreign aid as we know it", with the request for Yemen's base Economic Support Funding (ESF) decreased to $25 million for FY18, compared to $40 million for FY17 and $70 million in FY16.

Read the latest Congressional Research Service report on Yemen.

Read more news updates from Yemen this week here, and sign up for weekly news updates from the YPP here.