Democrats pressure Biden to take a tougher line on Saudi Arabia

In addition to promoting Kim and Malinowski’s travel ban, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to require U.S. intelligence officials to release a report on the role of Crown Prince-controlled business entities, such as the shell companies or airlines. He played in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. The amendment, led by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, establishes a process for eventually imposing sanctions on those organizations under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Lawmakers have also become increasingly concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as the nation faces rising rates of famine that aid groups warn are likely to rise, after an air and sea blockade by the US-led coalition. Saudi Arabia in Houthi-controlled territory has restricted imports. of vital goods.

As part of ceasefire negotiations, Saudi officials last month offered to reopen the airport in Sana, the Yemeni capital, and allow fuel and food to flow through a major Yemeni seaport, but a spokesman for the Houthis said they would not agree. discuss a ceasefire until Saudi Arabia lifts its blockade for the first time.

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were shocked after a closed-door briefing they received late last month from David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program and a former Republican governor. Beasley, who had just returned from a trip to Yemen, described a dire situation of massive famine and hospitals out of fuel, and stressed to lawmakers the urgency of lifting the blockade “immediately,” according to two officials who attended.

“Ending US support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen alone is not enough if we allow the lockdown to continue,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who addressed the letter to the Biden administration. . “This blockade is causing immense suffering and famine among Yemeni children and families, and it must be lifted now.”

But pressuring the administration to pressure the Saudis to do so can be an uphill battle, according to Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, who said in an interview that controlling the ports amounted to “pieces. very significant leverage in the negotiations from the Saudi perspective. “

“When you look at it from the management perspective, they are trying to deal with these things through the existing bargaining mechanisms,” Salisbury said. “In Yemen, and in many other cases, there is no profoundly simple way to end the war.”

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