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US Envoy Says Iran Playing Negative Role in Yemen

US Envoy Says Iran Playing Negative Role in Yemen

Thursday, 22 April, 2021 - 07:00
FILE PHOTO: A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted weapon at a frontline position during fighting against Houthis in Marib, Yemen March 28, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Owidha/File Photo

The US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said is Iran responsible for the instability in Yemen, noting that there isn’t any evidence that Tehran wants to support a constructive resolution to the conflict.


“The Iranians should not get a free pass here, what they are doing is negative,” he said.


Speaking at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Lenderking asserted that the only way to end the crisis is through a ceasefire and complete compliance with international laws and initiatives.


He indicated that more work is needed to ensure that all Yemeni parties are ready to put down “their guns and compromise for the sake of peace.  This will require a unified, international effort.”


The United States will continue to pressure all parties to ensure that they take the necessary steps to resolve the conflict in a responsible manner and alleviate the severity of the humanitarian crisis, asserted Lenderking.


The envoy indicated that there is a recognition and understanding of the necessary role of Houthi representation in any post-war Yemeni government, however, he stressed that the single biggest threat to all the efforts remains “the Houthis’ single-minded focus on a military assault on the city of Marib.”


“In the midst of six years of war, Marib has been a haven of stability, and a refuge for nearly one million internally displaced persons who have fled conflict elsewhere and have nowhere else to go...  A Houthi takeover of the city is not imminent, but they continue to move closer to their goal of encircling the city, potentially cutting off a population of 1.8 million.”


Lenderking accused the Iranians of supporting Houthis who continue to receive considerable funding, training, and other support from Tehran.


“Iranian support [for the Houthis] is quite significant, and it’s lethal.”


He warned that they threaten more than 70,000 US citizens who live and work in Saudi Arabia, close to the sites the Houthis have struck.


The envoy admitted that it is difficult to inspect every shipment arriving in Yemen and it had been difficult to halt shipments of weapons from Iran to the Houthis, calling to protect the borders with Oman.


More pressure has to be put on the smuggling networks used by Tehran, Lenderking said, as more weapons on Iranian vessels needed to be captured for a display to the international community.


He indicated that it is a positive indication if Iran stops supporting Houthis, and “we would welcome Iran playing a constructive role, if they are willing to do so," however, “we have not seen any indication of that."


If the Houthis are not acting as a proxy or partner of Iran, it is time they engage seriously "in our efforts to reach an agreement on a ceasefire and resume political talks," asserted the envoy.


Lenderking warned that the continuation of the fighting will lead to a greater wave of violence and instability.


The United States has communicated to the Saudi government that there is no military solution to this war, said the envoy, calling for the involvement of active regional players like Oman to achieve this objective.


The envoy answered a series of questions posed by the committee members on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.


He indicated that at the beginning of the war, humanitarian leaders stated that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” because the situation in Yemen was already so precarious before this war began. He warned that the economy is collapsing, leaving families unable to purchase even the most essential goods. 


“Humanitarian assistance is offering a critical lifeline for millions and helping prevent a famine, but it will never be enough,” he warned.


Lenderking believes that if the war continues, the humanitarian crisis will continue to get worse, asserting that “there are no quick fixes.  Only through a durable end to the conflict can we begin to reverse this crisis.”


He explained that Yemen still suffers from the fuel crisis and fuel is critical to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance and generally help alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. 


“I would like to state unequivocally that fuel must be allowed to enter regularly through Hodeidah  port.”


He indicated that both the government and Houthis bear responsibility for this, saying the group does not respect its commitments in accordance with the 2018 Stockholm Agreement. 


“In that agreement, the parties reached a compromise that called for depositing Hodeidah  port revenues in a special account in the Central Bank of Yemen branch in Hodeidah and using the funds to pay the salaries of Yemeni civil servants,” he said, adding that the UN Panel of Experts documented that “Houthis have repeatedly violated this agreement and diverted those funds to their war effort, contributing to the current impasse.”


Lenderking indicated that the movement of humanitarian and commercial goods has consistently been a casualty of the Yemen conflict “whether it is the movement of goods through ports, roads, and across front lines; diversion of commercial goods; or bureaucratic impediments to humanitarian assistance.  All of these are unacceptable.”


There has been a notable increase in the monthly flow of food into Hodeidah, with 446,025 tons of food arriving in March 2020, which is 45 percent above the 2020 average.


“It is, of course, not enough, but shows that the system can work with cooperation from the parties to the conflict and effective UN oversight.”


When asked about his meeting with the Houthis, Lenderking said that he had met them in past years, adding that they welcomed the US role as a superpower that brings international support.


He lauded Saudi Arabia’s role in ending the crisis, saying that Riyadh is open to discussion with the Houthis.


The US administration “has publicly committed to help defend Saudi Arabia from these attacks.”


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