Timothy Lenderking, President Biden’s new special envoy for Yemen, is in Saudi Arabia this week. Current and former US officials told Foreign Policy that Lenderking’s trip is meant to send a signal to Riyadh about the seriousness of the Biden administration’s desire to end the war in Yemen.
The trip comes after President Biden announced he was ending all US “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen. As part of this effort, Biden said he would end “relevant” arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and two deals for precision-guided munitions to the Saudis were paused indefinitely.
In his announcement, Biden said that he was appointing Lenderking to look for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. Lenderking is set to meet with representatives of the Saudi-backed Yemen government and Martin Griffiths, the UN’s envoy for Yemen.
Saudi state media said Lenderking met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday. “Developments concerning Yemen were discussed, and joint efforts to support reaching a comprehensive political solution to the Yemen crisis were reviewed,” the news report said.
The Biden administration has also announced that it was reversing the terror designation of Yemen’s Houthis. The Trump administration listed the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization despite warnings from the UN and aid groups that it would push millions into famine.
While Biden said he is cutting off “offensive” support, questions remain over the US-supported blockade on Yemen and other aspects of the war.
Throughout the war that has been raging since March 2015, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition has regularly targeted civilian infrastructure. Due to the coalition’s siege tactics, Yemenis have been facing widespread disease, severe food shortages, and mass starvation.