Middle East and North Africa: Brett McGurk and Yemen Special Envoy Tim Lenderking

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This trip comes days before the anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi agents on October 2nd. MBS and his co-conspirators are facing civil and punitive damages for their alleged role in the killing. Plus, the Saudi-led war in Yemen remains a humanitarian disaster — and the Saudi-Emirati coalition was rebuked last week when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end U.S. support for the coalition’s war and blockade in the country.

Meanwhile, across the pond earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the upcoming UAE Expo, which begins on October 1st, because of human rights concerns.

Commentary:

Abdullah Alaoudh, Research Director for Saudi Arabia and UAE at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and son of Saudi prisoner of conscience Salman al Odah, who is facing the death penalty in the kingdom:

“While my father languishes in solitary confinement for more than 4 years because he called for peace, and 19 of my family are banned from travel, and I am harassed by the Saudi government, I see Jake Sullivan’s visit as normalizing these human rights violations against my family and so many other families.”

Stephen Mclnerney, Executive Director at Project on Middle East Democracy:

“I hope that Jake Sullivan and the Biden administration will take the opportunity of this trip to take a tough stand regarding the appalling human rights records of the Saudi and Emirati regimes, although unfortunately, we haven’t seen any sign that he intends to do so. I hope that Sullivan will not only meet with government officials but that he will take the time to meet with independent voices including rights advocates persecuted by their governments. This week marks the third anniversary of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi state. Sullivan and President Biden were extremely critical of the Trump administration’s refusal to hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the Khashoggi murder and other crimes and rights abuses, yet it has been dismaying to see them generally continue to follow the Trump administration’s approach in this regard since taking office.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN):

“Sullivan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt is a gratuitous bit of groveling, on the heels of over a billion dollars in arms transfers the Biden administration approved to these countries. They now know the Biden administration wasn’t serious about its human rights pledges to the American public; there’s really little reason to expect that they will take seriously any human rights concerns he raises. Sullivan should recognize that the optics of any chummy appearance with titled murderers and thugs only further undermines the administration’s dear “global democracy agenda.”

Shireen Al-Adeimi, Yemeni-American activist and assistant professor at Michigan State University:

“The priority for these discussions should be an exit strategy for the coalition and a complete withdrawal of US military assistance to Saudi and UAE in Yemen. Yemenis should no longer be sacrificed to appease Saudi, UAE, and US interests in the region; as such, the aerial and naval blockades must be lifted, and Yemenis should be left to determine their affairs without foreign interference.”

Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation:

“As senior Biden Administration officials Jake Sullivan, Tim Lenderking, and Brett McGurk discuss next steps for ending the Yemen war with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman this week, they should heed the message from the bipartisan majority in the House that just voted to terminate all U.S. support for the Saudi-led war and blockade in Yemen. Congress sent a loud message that the U.S. must not continue to be complicit in this humanitarian hellscape and that the Saudi-led war and blockade on Yemen must end immediately. Without the help of U.S. logistical and maintenance support, Saudi Arabia’s aerial operations, which are critical to the enforcement of the blockade, would end. It’s now critical that the Biden Administration carry this message in talks this week and leverage all influence and tools available, including U.S.-Saudi military cooperation, to compel Saudi to lift the blockade as a humanitarian act and help resolve the humanitarian crisis once and for all.”

Other available experts include:

  • Lina AlHathloul, sister of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain AlHathloul. Loujain was detained and arrested by Emirati authorities and unjustly imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia for her peaceful activism
  • Hala Aldosari, Saudi women’s rights activist and scholar in residence at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
  • Sunjeev Bery, Executive Director of Freedom Forward

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