Andrew Natsios and Jeremy Konyndyk urge the Trump administration to press Riyadh for an end to the Saudi-led blockade to avert a major famine:
The U.S. should make clear that maintaining the blockade is unacceptable and undermines our partnership with Saudi Arabia, and state explicitly that considerable U.S. support for the Saudi military – particularly U.S. arms sales and ongoing aerial refueling and intelligence-sharing – hangs in the balance.
U.S. pressure to date has prompted only modest action from the Saudis, and still no fundamental changes to the destructive policies that are starving millions of civilians in Yemen. A famine can still be prevented, but only if the Trump administration lays out tangible consequences – now – for Riyadh.
Millions of innocent lives hang in the balance.
U.S. support for the war on Yemen could be used as leverage to press Saudi Arabia and its allies to lift the blockade, but coalition governments would have to believe that the administration is willing to cut off military assistance if they won’t do that. Following the administration’s intense lobbying to defeat S.J.Res. 54, it is unlikely coalition governments will take such a threat seriously. Until they believe that the administration is willing to cut off that assistance, they will continue to assume that they have Washington’s unstinting support.
Yemen’s population relies on commercial imports to survive, and nothing less than a full lifting of the blockade is sufficient to halt the enormous humanitarian crisis in the country. The authors explain why the coalition’s modest changes in recent months are woefully inadequate:
But most damningly, rather than lift the blockade, the Saudis merely suspended it for 30 days. This is only marginally better than nothing: ambiguity around the blockade’s future still badly disrupts the commercial food imports on which Yemen depends.
Food importers plan and finance shipments months in advance, and cannot secure market financing if there is uncertainty over port access. Temporary blockade suspensions will not avert a famine. They indicate that the Saudis are still not serious about alleviating the humanitarian crisis. [bold mine-DL]
Halting the slide into famine will require much more. The Trump administration should convey a clear demand that the crown prince fully and permanently lift the blockade and enable the complete and unhindered flow of humanitarian and commercial shipments of food and medicines into Yemen.
Natsios and Konyndyk are absolutely right about all of this, and the administration should do as they recommend. The trouble is that the administration doesn’t seem willing to risk straining relations with Riyadh for any reason. Until that changes, it is up to Congress and the public to pressure the administration into doing just that.