On Wednesday, President Trump issued a rare public rebuke to Saudi Arabia, saying in a statement he has directed U.S. officials "to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it. This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately." Saudi Arabia, which has led a coalition of Arab states fighting against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen since March 2015, started blocking Yemeni ports last month, exacerbating one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The U.S. provides support for the Saudi-led airstrikes.
Trump has touted his warm relations with Saudi Arabia, but U.S. officials are concerned with some parts of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's foreign policy. Saudi Arabia was unusually public in its criticism of Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, but a White House official told Reuters that Trump's statement, issued shortly after his Jerusalem announcement, was not retaliation. "It has to do with the fact that there is a serious humanitarian issue in Yemen and the Saudis should and can do more," the official said.
At least 14,000 people have been wounded or killed since the Saudi bombing campaign began, 8 million people are on the brink of famine, and nearly a million Yemenis have contracted cholera. "President Trump's public call for Saudi Arabia to end the blockade is long overdue but hugely important," said Oxfam America's Scott Paul, adding that "U.S. support has helped create Yemen's horrific crisis." Peter Weber