President Trump Donald John TrumpHouse Democrat criticizes Donald Trump Jr. for his "serious case of amnesia" after the testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I do not want to represent Trump in the Olympic Games Survey: 4 out of 10 Republicans think In Trump's senior advisers he had undue dealings with Russia MORE who has been receiving criticism from humanitarian groups that his administration has largely ignored an escalating humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, on Wednesday pressured Saudi Arabia to lift a blockade in that country.
United The nations estimate that, as of November, 5,295 civilians have been killed and another 8,873 injured in the fighting in Yemen's civil war. The conflict intensified last month when Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade in response to the Houthi rebels who fired a missile at Riyadh, believed to have been supplied by Iran.
Trump said he was ordering his government to push Saudi Arabia to completely lift the blockade.
"I have instructed the officials of my administration to call the leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ask them to allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it," he said in a brief declaration. . "This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately."
Trump's critics praised the change.
"Although a long time ago, I am pleased that President Trump calls on Saudi Arabia to immediately allow humanitarian aid and vital commercial goods such as food, fuel and medicine to flow into Yemen," said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). "His statement is important, and I expect Saudi Arabia to heed our calls." The Trump administration must continue to make it clear to Saudi Arabia that the United States will not support a campaign that intentionally leaves civilians in submission.
Kate Gould, legislative director for the Middle East policy of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said Trump's statement Wednesday was a welcome event.
"It is very good news that President Trump now asks the Saudi government to end the Yemeni blockade completely," he said in an email. "Given the unrestrained praise we've seen since the Trump administration rained down on the Saudis from the on, it's heartening to see what a significant change in rhetoric is without doubt."
It was not immediately clear what prompted Trump's decision, which came the same day he announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there.
Some observers said they believed Congress' criticism could have reached the White House.
Yemen is on the verge of starvation, and the World Health Organization has reported almost one million cases of cholera and almost 200 cases of diphtheria. The country's war entered a new and uncertain phase earlier this week when the Houthis murdered their once-ally former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Critics have long seen Trump White House prioritizing the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia at the expense of Yemen's 7 million people.
"I think that's exactly what happened," said Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy advisor to Oxfam America, before Trump's statement on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, he added that Trump's words were "very backward" but "enormously important."
"We must not overlook the fact that the support of the United States has helped create the horrible crisis in Yemen," he said. "The US should also insist on an immediate ceasefire and an inclusive political agreement.If the parties refuse, the United States should suspend the supply of arms and military assistance it provides to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia."
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since early 2015 when the Houthi rebels took the capital of Sanaa and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled to the southern city of Aden. Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran's support of the Houthis in a neighboring country, formed a coalition and intervened in support of Hadi.
EE. UU Support for the campaign includes selling Saudi weapons, providing limited intelligence and helping with logistics, such as refueling in flight.
"It's not simply a matter of Trump turning a blind eye: the Trump administration actively helps and encourages Saudi war crimes in Yemen," Gould said before Trump's announcement.
Former President Obama was also criticized for providing support to the Saudi coalition. But in general, the Obama administration's relationship with Saudi Arabia was difficult, particularly after Iran's nuclear agreement that Riad vehemently opposed.
As critics of the Yemen conflict became more vocal, Obama also reduced military support for the campaign in the final month of his presidency, adding to the discontent of the Saudis.
When Trump took office, the Saudis tried to woo him. The efforts seemed to bear fruit in Trump's first stop on his first trip abroad, when images of him leaned to accept a gold medal, participated in a ceremonial sword dance and grabbed a bright balloon with the Saudi king Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi went viral online.
Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Democracy in the Middle East, said Trump's affinity for the Saudis seems to be more specific about Mohammed bin Salman, who became Crown Prince in June after replacing his cousin.
In addition to supporting Salman's policies in Yemen, McInerney said, the Trump administration did not act after Salman launched an anti-corruption campaign that has been described as a purge and an effort to shore up its power. McInerney also cited the government's lack of action in the drama surrounding Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who returned home this week after speculation that the Saudis took him hostage after abruptly announcing his resignation during a trip there. , as well as contradictory messages about the continuous confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"Many of his ideas in the region, including in Yemen, have failed, but he has enjoyed much support in the White House," McInerney said of Salman. "I think Trump probably overestimates the influence that Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi regime have in the region … The last big move by Mohammed bin Salman was to strike a decisive blow against the Houthis with Ali Abdullah Saleh withdrawing support and that failed. spectacular way. "
Senator. Bob Corker Robert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. Government will initiate Senate candidacy: McConnell will report "almost sure" GOP will approve tax reform Former governor of New Mexico: Trump's foreign policy is being criticized by all & # 39; MORE (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Tuesday there had been talks with Saudi officials about the situation in Yemen, although he did not say who specifically participated in those talks.
In general, Corker added, the situation in Yemen has become "unsustainable".
"The humanitarian cost is much higher than it should be," he said, adding that the Saudis themselves are responsible for much of this problem. that has happened there and that they are the most dominant entity and have an important role in rectifying the situation. "
In the House, Rep. Ro Khanna Rohit (Ro) Khanna Technology during the night : Red neutral repels sparks counterattack | Democrats press FCC to delay revocation vote | Apple and Ireland reach an agreement on the tax bill B | Facebook launches Messenger for children GOP bets that tax law will unlock corporate cash in the The Congress must end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen MORE (D-Calif.) Recently it waved to vote for the completion of the US participation in Yemen. Last month a diluted and non-binding resolution that, however, said that the US military participation in the civil war is not authorized.
"If there is any country over which it has influence, on the Saudis, "Khanna said. in an event last week. "On a scale of one to 10, I said that this is probably the second step, but it is a two step, it is a step forward at least to get the conversation in Congress and some of the facts that there are, and all of us need to build on that's to make sure that the pressure on the Saudis continues and that our own government stops at any aid to the Saudis in this corner. "