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The Intercept - March 16, 2022

IN THE LAST YEAR, Saudi Arabia tightened a devastating fuel blockade that Riyadh has long used as a war tactic. As Biden was entering the White House, commercial fuel imports to Yemen ground to a halt, with no fuel entering Yemen’s Hodeidah port for 52 days from January 28 to March 21, 2021, according to a report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “This is an alarming development, considering that more than half of Yemen’s commercial fuel imports had been coming through Al Hodeidah in recent years,” the report noted, referring to the port, which is administered by the Houthi-dominated government and through which 70 percent of Yemen’s imports enter the country. The agency called the shutoff “a precedent not seen since the beginning of the conflict in 2015.”

On February 4, 2021, Biden appointed Tim Lenderking as a special envoy to Yemen. Soon afterward, Secretary of State Antony Blinken removed the Houthis from a terror list his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, had issued in his final days, which the United Nations and many aid groups had warned would severely impact the roughly 24 million Yemenis who live in Houthi-held territory. The Biden administration made clear that lifting the designation was mainly to “alleviate or at least not worsen the suffering of the Yemeni civilians who live under Houthi control.” 

It didn’t work out that way. In a field visit to Yemen in March of last year, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley sounded the alarm, saying that the dire effects of the fuel shortage included widespread power outages at hospitals. “And now, to add to all their misery, the innocent people of Yemen have to deal with a fuel blockade,” he said. “The people of Yemen deserve our help. That blockade must be lifted, as a humanitarian act. Otherwise millions more will spiral into crisis.”

Later that month, the Houthis rejected a partial ceasefire proposal offered by Saudi Arabia, asking instead for a complete halt to the blockade and the air campaign.

The intervening months brought no relief. Food prices rose in Houthi-controlled areas, according to Famine Early Warning Systems, a food security warning system created by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Goods imports through the Houthi-held north of Yemen must undergo a lengthy, U.N.-administered inspection process known as the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism to check shipments for possible arms smuggling. But even after the UNVIM clears food and fuel shipments, the Saudi-led coalition controls whether and when these goods can reach Yemen. Sanaa-based Yemen Petroleum Company, which buys fuel for both the private sector and public use, says it incurs charges of $20,000 per day for delays in clearance caused by the Saudi-led coalition, which it passes on to consumers. ...
Read full report at The Intercept