Timothy Lenderking, the newly won U.S. special envoy to Yemen, is in Saudi Arabia this week, just days after President Joe Biden ended U.S. role in the Yemen conflict by offering offensive support for Saudi Arabia’s led coalition.
The official Saudi press agency showed pictures of the Lenderking meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh on Wednesday. “He will bring you a new message about your actions in Yemen,” said a former senior Trump administration official who was familiar with the trip Foreign policyincluding an explanation of why the United States has cut support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
Saudi Arabia has signaled that it is ready to work with Biden on the conflict in Yemen to ease tension with its government. Biden pledged to reassess US-Saudi Arabia relations in contrast to former President Donald Trump’s embrace in Riyadh.
Lenderking will also meet with representatives from the government of Yemen and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who has just completed a visit to Iran. In addition to cutting intelligence support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition for its operations in Yemen, the Biden government indefinitely suspended sales of up to $ 760 million worth of precision-guided ammunition to Riyadh. Defense news first reported. After his appointment, Lenderking spent late last week and well into the weekend on calls to NGO executives and ambassadors in the area to lay the groundwork for the visit.
But the trip, which current and former U.S. officials said should send an immediate message about the seriousness of the Biden administration’s peace-making efforts, provides a harrowing screen for renewed U.S. efforts. On Wednesday, Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the areas where the majority of Yemen’s population live, took responsibility for a drone strike on an airport in Abha, Saudi Arabia – an attack led by Saudi Arabia Coalition as a war crime.
Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. After six years of war between the Saudi Arabia-backed government and the Houthi rebels, around 24 million civilians face famine.
The ending of US support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen and the cessation of Trump-era US arms sales to Saudi Arabia were two of Biden’s first foreign policy moves. It also overturned the Eleventh Hour Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization that the United Nations and aid agencies had warned would hinder humanitarian efforts for civilians in Houthi-controlled areas. Officials said the decision was due to concerns about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and not a reduction in Houthi attacks.
Former Trump administration officials have criticized Biden’s early moves, arguing that they will strengthen Iran’s hand in the region and encourage the Houthis. “It is a bit embarrassing for the government to announce the delisting of a terrorist organization and quickly turn around and condemn that organization’s terrorist activities,” said Richard Goldberg, former director of Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Trump National Security Council.