Skip to main content

House Democrats urge Biden to pressure Saudis on 'unconscionable' Yemen blockade

The lawmakers called on Biden to use the full weight of US influence to end the sea and air blockade, which aid agencies say is exacerbating Yemen's humanitarian crisis.
US Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is seen in a hallway of the US Capitol prior to an event at the Rayburn Room Dec. 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.

A group of House Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to publicly pressure Saudi Arabia to end its “unconscionable” naval and air blockade of Yemen that threatens the lives of 16 million Yemenis already on the brink of famine. 

Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) led more than 70 of their colleagues in a letter to Biden on Tuesday, calling on the president to use the “full weight of US influence and all tools at your disposal to end the blockade.”

"We ask you to take additional steps to publicly pressure Saudi Arabia to lift this blockade immediately, unilaterally, and comprehensively," the letter read.

"This must include guaranteeing that humanitarian and commercial imports can freely enter Yemen; entrusting security oversight to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM); fully permitting flights in and out of Sana’a airport; and ensuring that and crossings for commercial and civilian traffic are permanently opened," the Democrats wrote. 

A Western-backed military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in the civil war in 2015 to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which had been expelled when the Iran-aligned Houthis overran the capital the year before. 

The Saudi-led blockade has contributed to what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Parts of Yemen are experiencing famine-like conditions, and the UN estimates at least 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five could die of starvation this year. 

CNN investigation last month found that since the start of the year, Saudi coalition warships haven’t allowed a single oil tanker, including 14 that secured UN clearance, to dock at the Houthi-controlled Red Sea port of Hodeidah. A day after CNN’s report was published, Yemen’s Saudi-backed government allowed four fuel ships to berth, but aid agencies say far more fuel is needed to make a dent in northern Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. 

The Saudi government has since put forward a UN-backed peace proposal that includes measures to allow fuel and food imports to reach Hodeidah port. Neither the Yemeni governor nor the Houthis have agreed to the terms, with the rebels saying the truce fell short of their demand for a complete end to the blockade.  

The rebel movement has meanwhile ramped up its cross-border attacks targeting Saudi Arabia and has escalated a campaign to take the oil-rich region of Marib. 

“We strongly support a comprehensive political settlement that addresses all aspects of the conflict, including a nationwide ceasefire,” the lawmakers said. 

"At the same time, a U.S. demand to end the blockade must occur independently of negotiations, particularly given that recent Saudi bombings of Sanaa and the Houthis’ offensive on Marib have cast the fate of those talks into doubt," the letter reads. 

A group of more than 70 national organizations as well as celebrities including Amy Schumer, Orlando Bloom and Mark Ruffalo called for an end to the blockade in a similar letter sent to Biden on Tuesday.  

Biden has made ending the grueling civil war a foreign policy priority and has appointed a special envoy, Timothy Lenderking, to oversee diplomatic efforts. Since taking office, Biden has ended offensive support for the Saudi-led coalition and launched a review of US weapons sales to Riyadh. His administration also reversed President Donald Trump’s foreign terrorist designation of the Houthis, a move humanitarian groups had warned could worsen the humanitarian crisis. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Gulf Briefing Gulf Briefing

Gulf Briefing

Top GCC stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial