Demand Progress Action pressures lawmakers to dig in on US role in Yemen war & humanitarian crisis

December 5, 2022

Maria Langholz, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC — On Tuesday, December 6, at 10:00 am ET, there is a Congressional hearing on Yemen’s humanitarian and political crisis post-truce expiration. Ahead of the hearing, Demand Progress Action has sent out questions to subcommittee members for consideration related to restrictions in the movement of fuel and humanitarian supplies, ongoing US involvement in the conflict, including its role in supporting the Saudi-UAE-led coalition’s military capability, and whether that support is being leveraged to find a lasting peace agreement.

The hearing, which will be held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism, presents an opportunity for lawmakers to ask questions of Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking and USAID Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, Sarah Charles.

Below are the questions sent to the subcommittee members by Demand Progress Action:

  • Has US maintenance support enabled Saudi warplanes to kill civilians, including the 90 that tragically died in a migrant detention facility earlier this year, since President Biden’s Yemen announcement in February 2021? Under what legal authority is the Administration authorized in operations supporting the Saudi-led coalition? 

  • Currently, the warring parties cannot find an agreement for a lasting ceasefire, risking the possibility that hostilities escalate. This may result in Saudi Arabia resuming airstrikes in Yemen. If this occurs, will the US provide spare parts transfers and maintenance to the Saudi Royal Air Force?

  • How did the truce impact the movement of fuel and other crucial humanitarian supplies into and throughout Yemen? What has been the impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid by USAID and local partners? Has the expiration of the ceasefire altered the movement of goods and aid? 

  • Have there been any calculable positive impacts on humanitarian conditions in Yemen, such as hunger, due to the previous ceasefire?

  • How are Saudi restrictions on ports and the Sanaa airport impacting medical facilities and the ability of individuals to travel to receive medical treatment? 

  • What are the current diplomatic barriers to opening up Sanaa airport flights to Cairo and what forms of US leverage has been exerted on Egypt to ensure these flights happen?

  • Is the US currently utilizing all forms of leverage it has on Saudi Arabia, including the withdrawing of US military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive military operations, to reestablish a truce and pursue a comprehensive peace agreement for Yemen?  If so, what have been the outcomes of these efforts?

  • The US has publicly pressured the Houthis to make concessions to achieve a new truce agreement. Has the US urged Saudi Arabia to make any further concessions to achieve an expanded and extended truce? What concessions, if any, has the United States recommended Saudi Arabia make in order to secure a lasting peace agreement?

  • President Biden has vowed consequences for Saudi Arabia over their collusion with Russia to significantly cut OPEC+ oil production. How have recent Saudi actions influenced the administration’s willingness to provide them continued military support vis-à-vis the war in Yemen?

  • 132 members of Congress have cosponsored legislation to end unauthorized support for the Saudi-UAE-led coalitions offensive military capabilities in Yemen, including the provisioning of spare parts, logistics, and maintenance for Saudi and UAE bombing squadrons implicated in potential war crimes. Given the United States’ stated goal of ushering in an end to the war in Yemen, why has the administration not acted to end this support? 

  • A recent GAO report has indicated that the State Department and Department of Defense is not able to provide evidence that it investigated incidents of potential unauthorized use of equipment transferred to Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Are you aware of any steps being taken to address this lack of transparency and accountability? Will the US continue to provide military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite no effective mechanism in place to track its use?

  • Recent reporting shows that the United Arab Emirates has spent millions to illegally and legally influence US policy. Another report indicates that dozens of former US national security and military officials, including former generals, are on the payroll of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to advance those countries’ interests. Has this network of influence impacted US policy in regards to Yemen? Has the administration taken any steps to ensure US policy is not affected by these influence campaigns?

  • In past hearings in this committee, humanitarian actors in Yemen asked for a new security council resolution to replace 2216 and create a stronger foundation for a pathway for ceasefire negotiations in Yemen. Is the US pursuing a new security council resolution on Yemen?

  • On November 18, 13 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter asking Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to use their influence in these upcoming sessions to push for a reinstatement of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE), an independent international oversight body that previously reported on the litany of human rights abuses and war crimes carried out during the war. Will the United States push for a renewed mandate for the GEE?

The hearing comes as the ceasefire between warring parties in Yemen expired on October 2. While fighting has not returned to pre-ceasefire levels, the lack of a long term peace agreement has left the country vulnerable to an escalation in hostilities, which could include a resumption in Saudi bombing campaigns and a full return to the Saudi blockade. Despite this, the Biden administration has yet to signal an end to crucial military support for the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition. In response, 132 members of Congress have cosponsored a War Powers Resolution to end this unauthorized support to the coalition.

Recent political developments also hang over the hearing. Two months ago, President Biden called for “consequences” against Saudi Arabia, after the Kingdom colluded with Russia to cut OPEC+ oil production. Since those statements, no consequences have been levied against Saudi Arabia. To the contrary, the Biden administration has recently granted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman immunity for his key role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Additionally, in November a sweeping US intelligence report exposed significant illegal and legal attempts by the United Arab Emirates to influence US policy.