The current American administration, which has taken it upon itself to stop the major deterioration in the Yemen crisis, has been in office for five months. During that time, US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking has visited the Arab Gulf region six times without achieving the goal he has constantly called for.
“The devil is in the details,” Lenderking told Congressmen during a hearing in April when asked about the details of his proposed political process. He said the general aim was to reached a ceasefire, which remains elusive.
The US State Department had set four goals, which it declared on May 25 when announcing Lenderking’s latest trip. It wants a comprehensive, nationwide and sustainable ceasefire in Yemen; the Iran-backed Houthis to cease their bloody attack on the Marib province; secure the unobstructed delivery of essential commercial goods and humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen and ensure the unimpeded flow of goods through all ports.
None of these demands have been fulfilled so far as confirmed by the State Department on Thursday upon Lenderking’s return to the US.
It said that the offensive in Marib was ongoing, adding that the “Houthis bear major responsibility for refusing to engage meaningfully on a ceasefire and to take steps to resolve a nearly seven-year conflict that has brought unimaginable suffering to the Yemeni people.”
“Instead, the Houthis continue a devastating offensive on Marib that is condemned by the international community and leaves the Houthis increasingly isolated,” it added.
The statement said Lenderking met with senior government officials, international partners, and Yemenis to discuss the humanitarian and economic crisis in Yemen and the urgent need for a comprehensive ceasefire to bring relief to Yemenis. The special envoy coordinated closely with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths during his trip and welcomed Griffiths’ latest trip to Sanaa.
In announcing his trip, the State Department had said that the fighting in Marib was the “main obstacle to ongoing peace efforts and threatens one million already vulnerable internally displaced people, as well as countless others who call Marib their home.”
During a special telephone briefing on May 20, Lenderking appeared upset with the Houthis for prolonging the conflict. He stressed that the US will continue its attempts to bridge divides between the Yemeni parties.
He also ruled out the fall of Marib in Houthi hands, remarking: “Marib, despite their predictions, did not fall during the month of Ramadan. It’s not falling now, and it’s not going to fall anytime in the foreseeable future.”
He then announced that Washington was sanctioning two Houthi leaders for their involvement in the Marib offensive, “showing to the international community that the United States does have levers to press and that the United States is dissatisfied with the Houthi actions in Marib, but again, the Houthis are out of step with the international community on this issue.”
Lenderking’s remarks also revealed divergence in views between the American administration and United Nations.
“We are not the United Nations. We are the United States. We have our own voice. We have our own perspective. We have our own expertise. We have our own views on the conflict and how to resolve it. And in that regard, we are very clear with the United Nations, very open conversations that we have with them, about the way forward,” he said.