May 1, 2017 (EIRNS)—A bi-partisan group of nine Senators sent a letter to Saudi Ambassador in Washington Khalid bin Salman Abdulaziz, last Thursday, calling on the Saudi kingdom to cease bombing the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, the single port capable of receiving foreign aid for the war-battered population. Today, there are signs that the pressure may be succeeding.
Led by Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young, the group also includes Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Boozman (R-AR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Christopher Coons (D-DL) and Ed Markey (D-MA). The letter outlines five points to “alleviate the suffering” of the Yemeni people, leading with lending “full support to Secretary Mattis’ call for a political settlement in Yemen.” In addition, they call upon the Saudis to “refrain from bombing” the port; expedite the inspection process for food cargos; facilitate the delivery of cargo cranes; and to “redouble efforts to ensure airstrikes do not hit key economic facilities and civilian infrastructure.”
Last week, the UN hosted a “Pledge Conference” which raised over $1 billion in food aid—unfortunately, only half of the $2.1 billion they were seeking. On Friday, following the second direct visit of Defense Secretary James Mattis to the kingdom, it was reported by Al-Monitor that the Saudis had apparently “shifted” their approach to Yemen, and were now looking for a “political solution” to the fighting. The paper quotes former (Obama-era) ambassador Gerald Feierstein, that this move could have significance far beyond the Gulf region:
“Most importantly, if you can get some kind of political agreement on Hodeidah, it might in turn be a confidence-building measure that allows you to accomplish other things, that allows you to move on to getting back to political negotiations,”
Feierstein said. “So it could be a real game changer if you can get this done.”
It should be recalled that, in April, Gen. Mattis—in what amounted to a complete reversal of what he had said only a month earlier—had called for a political solution in Yemen, saying that, “our goal is to push this conflict into U.N.-brokered negotiations to make sure it is ended as soon as possible.”