Washington, DC, March 5– In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East, commends the efforts of Senator Mike Lee, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Chris Murphy to focus the attention of the world on the horrific humanitarian crisis unfolding every day in Yemen’s so called “forgotten war”. Their resolution calls for an immediate end to U.S. military informal involvement in the conflict, which includes targeting assistance and midair refueling for Saudi coalition war planes conducting airstrikes in Yemen.
Just days ago, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that “conditions are catastrophic” on the ground, with a “record 22.2 million people [requiring] humanitarian assistance or protection, 2 million remained displaced, 1.1 million were suspected to have cholera and famine was a real threat.” Of the 2 million displaced people, 90 percent fled their homes over a year ago. UNICEF reported that a child dies of starvation every 10 minutes in Yemen.
This situation has developed from Iran-backed Houthi rebels (who are Zaydi Muslim, a branch of Shia Islam) destabilizing Yemen and seizing control of the capital as well as many major population centers, resulting in viscous fighting between pro-government and Houthi forces which has often occurred indiscriminately in densely populated neighborhoods and near schools and hospital with grievous loss of innocent life. Both sides have been guilty of making civilian targets military objectives. The entrance of the Saudi lead coalition in 2015 brought frequent airstrikes against military as well as civilian targets, which have only made the humanitarian situation worse. The subsequent Saudi blockade of food and fuel weaponizes human suffering in an unacceptable manor that the U.S. must ensure does not persist. President Donald Trump has called for the end to the blockade of Yemen, yet so far Saudi Arabia has failed to do so.
The U.S. has informally stepped in to support the Saudi led coalition while Iran has been giving aid to the rebels, seeing Yemen as an opportunity to expand their regional influence through yet another proxy. While U.S. disengagement from Saudi Arabia’s military campaign is an important first step in ending the humanitarian crisis, the U.S. and its international partners must force the Gulf States (including Saudi Arabia) and Iran into negotiations in order to truly to see an end to the unspeakable human suffering in Yemen and various proxy wars in the region.
We urge the Senate and the Administration to demand and facilitate a political resolution to the conflict, without which the humanitarian crisis will never truly be addressed. In Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, we see the proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia destabilizing countries and exacerbating conflicts for their own interests. The United States has the leverage to pressure our ally Saudi Arabia to work on an agreement in Yemen and guide them to play a stabilizing and constructive role in the Middle East, which would benefit all of the region’s peoples. The U.S. can also pressure our European allies to bring Iran to the negotiating table. Finally, we must also immediately work with the UN to implement a disaster relief plan to save the people of Yemen.