Intel: Democrats warn Trump administration against cutting Yemen aid

al-monitor A worker pushes a wheel cart carrying food at a World Food Program food aid distribution center in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.
Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris

@brykharris_ALM

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Yemen war

Mar 26, 2020

A group of seven prominent House Democrats warned the Donald Trump administration against cutting aid to war-torn Yemen despite new Houthi restrictions on international assistance.

The chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees and Middle East subcommittee, Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and outgoing USAID Administrator Mark Green warning them against cutting humanitarian assistance for Yemen as the Houthis impose new restrictions inhibiting aid delivery.

“These restrictions are unacceptable, but all political and diplomatic channels to resolve these issues must be exhausted before contemplating a large-scale, unilateral suspension of US assistance, which risks catastrophic humanitarian impacts,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “The recent agreement by the Houthi aid coordination agency to withdraw some of its unacceptable demands demonstrates that donors and humanitarian organizations are making progress through negotiation and diplomatic pressure.”

Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., also signed onto the letter.

Why it matters: Reports first emerged that the Trump administration was considering cutting Yemen aid after the Houthis threatened to instate a 2% tax on all humanitarian assistance projects throughout the territory they control. Shortly thereafter, the Houthis said they would “suspend the tax” for fiscal year 2020.

Still, the House letter acknowledged that “the Houthi-led government in Sana has arbitrarily denied permission for humanitarian programming in the north, imposing a number of unacceptable conditions that have constrained the delivery of lifesaving assistance to some of the most vulnerable populations in Yemen.” At the same time, the Democratic lawmakers noted that the Yemeni government “has also restricted the movement of NGOs and aid delivery” in the south while calling out the US-backed Saudi campaign against the Houthis for exacerbating the crisis.

What’s next: Khanna, one of the letter’s signatories, and several anti-war groups want to renew a push to cut off US funding for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in this year’s defense authorization bill — a fight they lost last year after negotiations with the White House and Republican-held Senate. Armed Services Chairman Smith has not committed to reviving that fight but has not yet ruled it out.

Know more: Naseh Shaker is on the ground in Yemen and has an in-depth look at how the country is preparing for coronavirus amid a civil war. 

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