April 6, 2021 | The Hill

Biden’s policy shift in Yemen courts environmental disaster

April 6, 2021 | The Hill

Biden’s policy shift in Yemen courts environmental disaster

Excerpt

A major disaster is unfolding in slow motion, with the international community seemingly incapable of taking any action other than public hand wringing.

A crippled oil tanker, FSO Safer, has been moored just north of the port city of Hudaydah, Yemen’s main hub for humanitarian delivery, for more than five years. It’s in bad shape. In January, the International Maritime Organization reported that the ship’s structural integrity is failing and risks leaking 48 million gallons of oil into the Red Sea. To put that in perspective, this is four times the 260,000 barrels that spilled from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. If the tanker leaks, it will shut down the major trade lane that feeds the Suez Canal. According to the executive director of the UN Environment Program, “time is running out for us to act in a coordinated manner to prevent a looming environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe.”

Since last July, the United Nations has been trying, without success, to send a technical mission to assess the tanker’s condition. The Trump administration repeatedly called on the Houthis to permit UN technical teams’ unconditional access to the tanker. However, Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who control the port at Hudaydah, continue to delay and block UN inspectors’ access to the ship. In response, the UN Security Council last month passed a resolution calling on the Iranian-backed Houthis to allow inspectors access to the tanker, which to date has been met with no response.

Morgan Lorraine Viña is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Simone Ledeen is a non-resident senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute’s Antonin Scalia School of Law. She previously served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy.  Follow Morgan and Simone on Twitter at @morganlroach and @SimoneLedeen. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

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Issues:

Al Qaeda Gulf States International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Jihadism