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Yemen barrels toward famine as U.S. debate continues

As debate rages in Washington and around the world about how to slow or end the war in Yemen, the country continues to teeter on the edge of a debilitating famine.

Data: FEWS NET; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The big picture: The UN has said for months that Yemen is on the brink of famine, and the heads of major humanitarian organizations say the U.S. will share responsibility "for the deaths of many more Yemeni civilians" if significant action isn't taken, per CNN.

Where things stand ...

Yesterday, the Senate voted to advance a resolution that would pull U.S. support from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. That was a rebuke to President Trump, who has stood by the Saudis, but the resolution is a long way from passage.

Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo have called for a ceasefire in Yemen by Dec. 1, but that deadline is unlikely to be met. However, the sides are expected to begin talks next week in Sweden.

  • Dan Schneiderman of the International Crisis Group, and a former Yemen director at the White House National Security Council, told Axios: "It's important to remember that the Sweden talks are consultations — pre-talk talks rather than a full-blown peace process. So our expectations shouldn't be that they will end with a deal."
  • The Saudis plan to attend, per Reuters, as do the Houthis if "their safe exit and return is guaranteed." Previous talks broke down in September before they could really begin.

Meanwhile, things in Yemen are continuing to get worse.

  • Declan Walsh files from Sanaa for the New York Times: "The problem isn’t a lack of food; it’s that few people can afford to buy what food is available."
  • David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, told Axios in a statement: "If we wait for famine to be declared, it will already be too late. ... The question is whether Congress and the Administration will do the right thing. Yemen can no longer wait."
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