The port at Hodeidah accounts for between seventy and eighty percent of all the food and aid that enters Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition and their Yemeni allies are targeting Hodeidah for two reasons: they are worried that Iran is using the port to smuggle ballistic missiles to the Houthis and that the Houthis are using the port to make vast sums of money for their war effort via illegal taxation of ships and goods. We do know that Iran is giving the Houthis aid. For the past two years, I served on the United Nations Security Council’s Yemen Panel. We found that Iran was smuggling ballistic missiles into Yemen in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. There was also a lot of evidence to suggest – although we could not concretely prove – that Iran was supplying military advisers to the Houthis. In a policy reversal, the United States has now given the coalition permission to attack Hodeidah. Former president Ali Abdallah Saleh’s nephew’s decision to join the coalition also prompted the attack. The US continues to provide the coalition with refueling and intelligence support, identifying non-military targets for the coalition so they are not targeted by airstrikes. Separately, the US is also fighting Al-Qaeda and ISIS (alongside the UAE). Congressional opposition to the war is growing as concerns mount about a possible humanitarian crisis. Whether there is a humanitarian crisis depends on how long the battle for the city lasts. However, it is important to remember that Yemen was in crisis well before Hodeidah, with eighteen million Yemenis classified as food insecure. Washington is hoping that a coalition victory in Hodeidah will change this untenable status quo.

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