Peace advocates and international observers are warning that a looming U.S.-backed assault on the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah could throw the war-torn country into the famine that human rights groups have warned about for months—and implored members of Congress on Tuesday to take immediate action to end the Saudi-led coalition's offensive.
"A prolonged battle over Hudaydah—whether the city or the port—will be the tipping point that plunges the millions of people suffering in Yemen into a full blown famine and an even greater humanitarian crisis," said Kate Kizer, policy director for Win Without War.
"Seven million people are completely reliant every month on food and other assistance from humanitarian organizations so Hudaydah is absolutely central to the preserving of life and if for any period, Hudaydah were not to operate effectively, the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic," warned U.N. Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock on Monday.
Hudaydah is home to 600,000 people and the point of entry for humanitarian aid and 70 percent of Yemen's food and fuel—all in extremely short supply since the country erupted in civil war in 2015, worsened by the Saudi-led coalition's military intervention, with weapons and other support from the U.S., the U.K., and France.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudis' planned attack on Hudaydah would bring more chaos to the impoverished country, which has spiraled into cholera and diphtheria outbreaks as well as a near-famine since the war began.
"Seven million people are completely reliant every month on food and other assistance from humanitarian organizations...If for any period, Hudaydah were not to operate effectively, the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic." —Mark Lowcock, U.N. Humanitarian Chief
More than 10,000 have been killed in the violence, while three million have displaced. The U.N. has warned about mass starvation for several months, saying the country could face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims." Some lawmakers, including Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), have been outspoken in their opposition to the carnage in Yemen in recent moths, and Win Without War urged lawmakers on Tuesday to take strong action against U.S. involvement in the destruction.
"For years we have watched American politicians proclaim their concern over the immense human suffering caused by the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, and now is the chance to turn that concern into action," said Kizer.
A small bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress—including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)—have taken a leadership role by circulating a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis urging him to stop the attack.
The U.S. must not allow the Saudi-led coalition to begin their assault on the port city of Hodeidah in Yemen. This assault could end prospects of a peace settlement and would lead to suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of people.https://t.co/7SZQhXCzzV— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) June 12, 2018
"In light of your April 2017 remarks that the war must be resolved 'politically as soon as possible,' we urge you to use all tools at your disposal to dissuade the Saudi-led coalition from moving forward with this offensive and reject the provision of U.S. logistical, military and diplomatic support for any such operation," wrote a bipartisan group of lawmakers in a letter on Monday.
Mattis's fellow Trump cabinet member, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, showed no interest in stopping the UAE's impending attack on Hudaydah in a statement on Monday, saying the U.S. aimed to address the UAE's "security concerns" while allowing humanitarian aid and imports to flow freely into Yemen. The statement was read by critics as an implicit green light for the assault.
This is an oddly weak statement. It doesn’t warn the UAE not to launch the assault on Hudaydah. Seems like the U.S. is resigned to seeing it happen and maybe even willing to go along with it. Hundreds of thousands of lives at stake in Yemen. https://t.co/iib3TP8jWT— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) June 11, 2018
It's a soft-green light from @SecPompeo for the UAE to launch a military offensive that's likely to kill 250,000 people in #Yemen.— Kate Kizer (@KateKizer) June 11, 2018
The US is not just going along with it, we are actively fueling it (literally and politically). #YemenCantWait https://t.co/mirEsnuzwf
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) called on the U.S. to end its involvement in the ongoing violence in Yemen, in a clear-eyed statement that Win Without War said has been sorely lacking from many members of Congress as Yemen has been plunged deeper into its humanitarian crisis.
Yemen is on the brink of famine. More than 75% of the population is reliant on food aid to survive.— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 11, 2018
An attack on Al Hudaydah could shut off vital humanitarian supply lines. The @UN says 250,000+ civilians might die as a result. The US must end its complicity in this atrocity. https://t.co/R21M298wyb
"Today, we call on each and every member of Congress to demand the planned Hudaydah offensive be halted and that all parties immediately and without precondition resume negotiations over a political settlement," said Kizer. "If the UAE and Saudi Arabia move forward with an offensive on Hudaydah, we call on Congress to immediately end all military support to the coalition's intervention in Yemen."