Skip to main content

House leaders demand Biden push to free US embassy staff in Yemen

The Houthi rebels detained several Yemenis working for the US government earlier this month.
Yemen protest

The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee want the Biden administration to do more to free US embassy staff in detention in Yemen. 

Democratic. Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York and Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday addressing the issue.

“If the Houthis fail to comply, we urge you to exercise all available leverage to secure the release of the detained LES and ensure the well-being of our LES in the future, including via relocation, if necessary,” they wrote, using an acronym for “locally employed staff.” Meeks chairs the committee and McCaul is its top Republican. 

Tens of Yemeni citizens working for the US embassy and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and two United Nations employees were detained in the Yemeni capital Sana’a earlier this month by the Houthi rebels. Both the US government and the UN have demanded the Iran-backed rebels release the detained individuals. The US Treasury Department also sanctioned a Houthi leader last week over the issue. Some of the US government employees have since been released, but a number remain in Houthi custody, according to State Department officials. 

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war between the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi forces since 2014. The Houthi forces receive support from Iran. In 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened on behalf of the Hadi government. Hadi is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia. The Houthis control Sana’a and much of western Yemen. Most of the rest of the country is in the hands of the government and its nominal ally the Southern Transitional Council, which supports autonomy for the south. 

Most recently, the Houthis have been conducting a major offensive to take the city of Marib. 

US President Joe Biden made ending the war in Yemen a priority for his Administration. 

Some members of Congress are critical of Saudi conduct in the war and oppose US arms sales to the Kingdom.  Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced a resolution earlier this month to block a US arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Omar is also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

It is unclear what leverage the United States has over Houthi forces. The rebels did not accept a Saudi-proposed cease-fire earlier in the year, despite US pressure. Meeks and McCaul urged the Department of Defense to work on "intercepting weapons smuggled by Iran to the Houthis.” They also thanked Oman for its help securing the release of some of the US government employees. 

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.

Free

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.

Free

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
Expert

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

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

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

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