In addition to advancing the travel ban by Mr. Kim and Mr. Malinowski, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to require American intelligence officials to release a report on the role that commercial entities controlled by the crown prince — such as shell companies or airlines — played in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The amendment, led by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, sets up a process to eventually impose sanctions on those organizations under the Global Magnitsky Act.
Lawmakers have also become increasingly concerned with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as the nation faces rising rates of famine that aid groups warn are likely to rise, after an air and sea blockade by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi-controlled territory has restricted imports of vital goods.
As part of cease-fire negotiations, Saudi officials offered last month to reopen the airport in Sana, the Yemeni capital, and allow fuel and food to flow through a major Yemeni seaport, but a spokesman for the Houthis said that they would not agree to discuss a cease-fire until Saudi Arabia first lifted its blockade.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were shaken after a closed-door briefing they received late last month from David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nation’s World Food Programme and a former Republican governor. Mr. Beasley, who had just returned from a trip to Yemen, painted a dire situation of mass starvation and hospitals without fuel, and impressed upon lawmakers the urgency of lifting the blockade “immediately,” according to two officials who attended.
“Ending U.S. support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen alone isn’t enough if we allow the blockade to continue,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who led the letter to the Biden administration. “This blockade is causing immense suffering and starvation among Yemeni children and families, and it needs to be lifted now.”
But pushing the administration to pressure the Saudis to do so may be an uphill battle, according to Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, who said in an interview that control of the ports amounted to “very important pieces of leverage in the negotiations from the Saudi perspective.”
“When you look at it from the perspective of the administration, they are trying to deal with these things through existing negotiation mechanisms,” Mr. Salisbury said. “On Yemen, and in many other cases, there is no profoundly simple way of ending the war.”
Pope Francis delivered his annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) Easter message to a small group of the faithful inside St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, while coronavirus pandemic prohibitions kept the usual audience of about 70,000 pilgrims away from St. Peter’s Square for a second year.
The pope delivered the message after presiding over Easter Mass in the presence of about 200 worshipers.
Francis spoke of the economic and social hardships that many people, and especially the poor, are experiencing because of the pandemic, which has worsened recently in Italy and much of Europe. He also addressed the continuing armed conflicts, unrest and increased military spending in Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and other regions and nations.
As he has in the past, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics called on the international community “in a spirit of global responsibility” to ensure that everyone has access to vaccines, which he called “an essential tool” in the fight against the pandemic. Delivery delays had to be overcome to “facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” Francis said.
He called on all governments to look after the many people who have lost jobs and experienced economic hardship because of the pandemic, as well as those who lack “adequate social protection.”
“The pandemic has, unfortunately, dramatically increased the number of the poor and the desperation of thousands of people,” he said.
The pope also noted the difficulties of the young, “forced to go long periods without attending school or university or spending time with their friends.” He acknowledged the children who had written meditations for the torchlit Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday, held this year in front of the Basilica instead of the Colosseum, that spoke of loneliness and grief stemming from the pandemic.
“The risen Christ is hope for all who continue to suffer from the pandemic, both the sick and those who have lost a loved one,” Francis said
WASHINGTON—President Biden has directed the Pentagon to begin removing some military capabilities and forces from the Gulf region in the first steps of an effort to realign the U.S. global military footprint away from the Mideast, changes that come as Saudi Arabia endures rocket and drone attacks from inside Yemen and Iraq.
In moves that haven’t been previously reported, the U.S. has removed at least three Patriot antimissile batteries from the Gulf region, including one from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, that had been put in place in recent years to help protect American forces.
Some capabilities, including an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems, are being diverted from the Middle East to answer military needs elsewhere around the globe, according to U.S. officials. Other reductions are under consideration, officials said.
The removal of Patriot batteries, the permanent aircraft-carrier presence and other military capabilities means that several thousand troops may leave the region over time. As of late last year there were about 50,000 troops in the region, down from a high of about 90,000 at the height of tensions between the Trump administration and Iran about two years ago.
Defense officials declined to provide specifics about the reductions in military capabilities or forces. Saudi officials didn’t respond to a request for comment about the U.S. plans.
“Cutting aid is a death sentence,” the U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, said of the outcome.
Rafat al-Akhali, a fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University who studies Yemen, said that frustration with the lack of progress toward ending the war, questions about the efficacy of the United Nations and concerns about Houthi interference with aid delivery had all contributed to reduced donations.
Although foreign aid can help Yemeni families avoid catastrophe, he said, but only an end to the war can ease Yemen’s many crises.
“The real solution is for the conflict to stop and for some semblance of normality to be restored, but without that what are you left with other than aid coming in from U.N. agencies or an injection of cash?” he said.
In another rural clinic near the town of Qaflat Athr, also north of Sana, Amna Hussein, 15 months old, lay weakened by diarrhea and vomiting linked to malnutrition. She had been treated in the same clinic last year and had improved, her mother said, and they had returned each week for nutritional supplements to keep her healthy. But last month, because of funding cuts, the supplements ran out and now Amna was back in the clinic.
Her mother, who declined to give her name because of shame, said that she and her four daughters had left her husband and moved in with her brothers, who had barely enough to feed them.
“We are like refugees in other people’s home,” she said. “You can only appreciate whatever is provided.”
Shuaib Almosawa reported from Al Harf, Yemen, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.
JERUSALEM — The sun was rising on the Mediterranean one recent morning when the crew of an Iranian cargo ship heard an explosion. The ship, the Shahr e Kord, was about 50 miles off the coast of Israel, and from the bridge they saw a plume of smoke rising from one of the hundreds of containers stacked on deck.
The state-run Iranian shipping company said the vessel had been heading to Spain and called the explosion a “terrorist act.”
But the attack on the Shahr e Kord this month was just one of the latest salvos in a long-running covert conflict between Israel and Iran. An Israeli official said the attack was retaliation for an Iranian assault on an Israeli cargo ship last month.
Since 2019, Israel has been attacking ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas, opening a new maritime front in a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and in the air.
Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.
But the conflict’s expansion risks the escalation of what has been a relatively limited tit-for-tat, and it further complicates efforts by the Biden administration to persuade Iran to reintroduce limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“This is a full-fledged cold war that risks turning hot with a single mistake,” said Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization. “We’re still in an escalatory spiral that risks getting out of control.”
Since 2019, Israeli commandos have attacked at least 10 ships carrying Iranian cargo, according to an American official and a former senior Israeli official. The real number of targeted ships may be higher than 20, according to an Iranian Oil Ministry official, an adviser to the ministry and an oil trader.
first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Most of the ships were carrying fuel from Iran to its ally Syria, and two carried military equipment, according to an American official and two senior Israeli officials. An American official and an Israeli official said the Shahr e Kord was carrying military equipment toward Syria.
The Israeli government declined to comment.
has accelerated in recent years. Iran has been arming and financing militias throughout the region, notably in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon, where it supports Hezbollah, a Shiite militia and political movement that is a longtime enemy of Israel.
Israel has tried to counter Iran’s power play by launching regular airstrikes on Iranian shipments by land and air of arms and other cargo to Syria and Lebanon. Those attacks have made those routes riskier and shifted at least some of the weapons transit, and the conflict, to the sea, analysts said.
Israel has also sought to undermine Iran’s nuclear program through assassinations and sabotage on Iranian soil, and both sides are accused of cyberattacks, including a failed Iranian attack on an Israeli municipal water system last April and a retaliatory Israeli strike on a major Iranian port.
Iran’s Quds force was blamed for a bomb that exploded near Israel’s embassy in New Delhi in January. And 15 militants linked to Iran were arrested last month in Ethiopia for plotting to attack Israeli, American and Emirati targets.
The sum is an undeclared conflict that neither side wants to escalate into frontal combat.
a major Iranian nuclear site in July and the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last November. Israel has not publicly acknowledged either operation.
The Israeli offensive against Iranian shipping has two goals, analysts and officials said. The first is to prevent Tehran from sending equipment to Lebanon to help Hezbollah build a precision missile program, which Israel considers a strategic threat.
The second is to dry up an important source of oil revenue for Tehran, building on the pressure American sanctions have inflicted. After the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s fuel industry in late 2018, the Iranian government became more reliant on clandestine shipping.
Sima Shine, a former head of research at Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
The attacks typically feature limpet mines and sometimes torpedoes, the American official said. They generally target the ships’ engines or propellers, one Israeli official said. And they are intended to cripple but not sink the ships, the American and Israeli officials said.
a recent oil spill that left tons of tar on the beaches of Israel and Lebanon.
Within Israel, there is concern among maritime experts that the cost of a sea war may exceed its benefit.
While the Israeli Navy can make its presence felt in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, it is less effective in waters closer to Iran. And that could make Israeli-owned ships more vulnerable to Iranian attacks as they pass Iran’s western shores on their way to ports in the Gulf, said Shaul Chorev, a retired Israeli admiral who now heads the Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Center at the University of Haifa.
“Israeli strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and related waterways will undoubtedly grow,” he wrote in a statement, “and the Israeli Navy does not have the capabilities to protect these interests.”
Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem, Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv, Farnaz Fassihi from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Saudi Arabia proposed what it described as a new peace offering on Monday to end the kingdom’s nearly six-year-old war on the insurgency in neighboring Yemen, pledging to lift an air-and-sea blockade if the Houthi rebels agree to a cease-fire.
The offering, announced by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, came as pressure has escalated on the country to help break a stalemate in the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations has called the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster.
Millions of Yemenis, including children, are verging on famine partly because of the blockade, which has choked the delivery of food and fuel to the country, the Arab world’s poorest.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, was quoted by Arab news media as saying that if the Houthis agreed to a cease-fire, the country would allow the reopening of the airport in Sana, the Yemeni capital, and would permit fuel and food imports through Hudaydah, a major Yemeni seaport. Both are controlled by the Houthis.
announced an end to American logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen.
United Nations humanitarian officials have been pleading for eased access to vulnerable Yemenis isolated by the war, warning that famine already is beginning to take hold. After a visit to Yemen in early March, David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, the U.N.’s anti-hunger agency, said “the famine is on a worsening trajectory.”
Six years of war, Mr. Beasley said, had “completely devastated the people, in every respect.”
RIYADH—Saudi Arabia unveiled a proposal for a cease-fire aimed at disentangling itself from Yemen’s civil war, as rebel forces press an offensive and the Biden administration seeks to extricate the U.S. from the six-year-old conflict.
The proposal announced Monday includes a nationwide cease-fire, reopening of both the airport in the capital San’a and the country’s largest port at Hodeidah, as well as the start of political consultations under United Nations supervision, which have so far failed to resolve the conflict between the Saudi-backed forces and the Houthi rebels.
“We want the guns to fall completely silent. That is the initiative and that is the only thing that can really help us get to the next step,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters Monday. “We hope that we can have a cease-fire immediately, but the onus is on the Houthis.”
The Houthis, who are aligned with Saudi archenemy Iran, dismissed the proposal as containing nothing new.
“Any positions or initiatives that don’t recognize that Yemen has been subjected to hostility and blockade for six years, and don’t separate the humanitarian aspect from any political or military bargain or lift the blockade are nothing new or serious,” said the group’s spokesman, Mohammed Abdel Salam.
KIRIKHAN, Turkey — Turkey’s southern border with Syria has become a place of hardship and misery, with tented camps for people displaced by a decade of war on the Syrian side and a concrete wall blocking entrance to Turkey for all but the most determined.
Yet amid the rocky outcrops in one small area on the Turkish side, life is abounding as an endangered species of wild gazelle is recovering its stocks and multiplying.
The mountain gazelle, a dainty antelope with a striped face and spiraling horns, once roamed widely across the Middle East, and as Roman mosaics reveal, across southern Turkey as well. But by the end of the last century, it was hunted almost to extinction, with only a dwindling population of 2,500 left in Israel, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In Turkey, the gazelle was forgotten and thought to no longer exist. The only ones officially recorded were a subspecies, known as goitered gazelles, in Sanliurfa Province in the southeast of the country.
The rediscovery and survival of the mountain gazelle in Turkey has been largely thanks to one man and his love of nature.
Yasar Ergun, a village teacher who became a veterinarian and professor at Hatay Mustafa Kemal University in the city of Antakya, heard in the mid-1990s from an old hunter that there were wild gazelles in the mountains along the border with Syria.
A keen hiker, he set out to try to find them. Barely 25 miles from Antakya — the ancient city of Antioch — Kurdish villagers knew about them and shepherds occasionally saw them. The gazelles live on the rocky hillsides, where their markings and coloring make them almost invisible. But they come down in groups to graze and find water on the surrounding agricultural land.
The professor spotted his first one in 1998 and, after a decade of observing them, estimated that there were about 100 living in the area.
With a small grant for a teaching project, he bought a camera and telephoto lens, which led to a close encounter and a breakthrough discovery.
“It was the mating season,” he recalled. “I ran to the road, and the male ran toward me to defend his females. It was very unusual.”
When he examined the photos, he realized the gazelles differed from those in southeastern Turkey.
“This one was light brown, with some parts white, and the horns were completely different,” he said. He was sure he was looking at the mountain gazelle, but found little interest in his claims in academic circles, he said.
“I sent the photographs around — professors just laughed,” he said.
He drew on the help of Tolga Kankilic, a biologist, who gathered samples of dung, fur and skin from the remains of dead gazelles for genetic testing, and found that the DNA matched that of mountain gazelles.
The discovery presented Mr. Ergun with an altogether more important task: to help the gazelles survive. There were several threats to them — lack of water and habitat especially — but by far the greatest danger was illegal hunting. Hunting is allowed only under license in designated areas in Turkey, but illegal hunting is rife.
The gazelles had disappeared completely from other regions, including Adana, farther west, where American soldiers stationed at Incirlik air base used to hunt them 20 years ago, he said.
“The end of a genetic source is the same as the collapse of Earth,” he said. “Nature needs biodiversity.”
He won a grant from the World Wildlife Fund in Turkey for a grass-roots project with local villagers and bought mountain gear and amateur walkie-talkies for several shepherds, who began monitoring the gazelles. They dug basins in the rock to collect water for the gazelles, though it took the animals months to trust the water source.
With his knowledge of village life, Mr. Ergun began softly, gaining the support of local shepherds, educating children to protect the gazelles and even encouraging a local Kurdish legend of a holy man who lived with the gazelles and milked them.
With the hunters, Mr. Ergun and his helpers adopted an approach of traditional courtesy and respect, drinking tea with them but never mentioning their hunting.
“We never tried to use force to stop them,” he said. “We would say, ‘Hello, we are from the Nature Project.’ Sometimes silence is more powerful than talking.”
The local people were Kurds, a mountain people with their own language and culture — and a history of resistance to the Turkish state.
“If you make an enemy, just one, in 10 years you will have 10 enemies, and in 100 years you will have 1,000,” Mr. Ergun said. But as the shepherds began monitoring the gazelles, the hunters got the message.
Mr. Ergun also needed the cooperation of the Turkish Army, which has a base in the area. The gazelles occupy a narrow strip of territory along the border a few miles wide and less than 20 miles long that is mostly a restricted military zone.
Yet the military restrictions, and the outbreak of war across the border in Syria 10 years ago, helped the gazelles in unexpected ways. Turkey built a cement wall along the border and dismantled an old buffer fence, which opened up more territory for the gazelles and protected them from straying into Syria, where hunting remains a threat.
The project grew, securing government support for a breeding center and sanctuary for orphaned and injured gazelles. The gazelles began to thrive, increasing from about 235 in 2012 to more than 1,100 last year, according to an official count by Turkish government agencies.
In 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey declared a protected area of 50 square miles for the gazelles, and plans for a cement factory and quarries in the area were canceled.
Turkey is enormously rich in flora and fauna, but is industrializing rapidly and lagging in nature conservation, said Sedat Kalem, the conservation director of the World Wildlife Fund Turkey, which gave two small grants to help start the gazelle project. The government did not step in to rescue the gazelles, and it was left to a local initiative, he said.
“But we were happy to be instrumental in this result,” he said. “The locals have done a great job. If everybody can take care of their own environment, that is the key for overall success for protecting biodiversity.”
Not all of the villagers are convinced of the importance of protecting the gazelles.
“It’s actually a pain,” said Nuray Yildirim as she baked flatbread in an outdoor oven in the village of Incirli. “There are too many of them, and they eat the chickpeas and the wheat.”
But others described the gazelles as a blessing, even holy.
“They have been living here since the time of our ancestors,” said Mehmet Hanafi Cayir, a farmer. “The richness they bring will come to our door.”
Mr. Ergun’s attachment is primarily scientific. He said the increase in gazelles had brought wolves and even hyenas back to the region, which reflects a healthy ecosystem.
He also has plans for the future. As the numbers increase, he wants to reintroduce gazelles to other areas of Turkey and beyond.
“The habitat is suitable for these gazelles,” he said.
“Maybe we can reintroduce them in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq,” he added. “They lost them just 30 years ago. The people of the Middle East suffered so much. We should offer them this.”
MARIB, Yemen—A detachment of Saudi-backed Yemeni soldiers—armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and a single tank—keep watch from a rock outcropping, scanning the vast expanse of desert below them for signs of activity by Iranian-backed Houthi fighters.
“They’re out there,” said Yemeni Maj. Gen. Ameen Alwaili. “They’re pushing in from three sides.”
This small outpost is on the front lines of a continuing battle between the Houthi rebels and Yemen’s U.N.-recognized government, which is trying to hold on to Marib, its last stronghold in the north of the country and site of a coveted oil refinery.
In recent weeks, Houthi forces, using armed drones, ballistic missiles and mortars, have moved within a few miles of the city.
If Marib falls, Yemeni government and Saudi officials warned, it would give the Houthis and their Iranian allies control of a strategically valuable area that could serve as a launchpad for continued strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry infrastructure and other targets.
Saudi and Yemeni officials said recent moves by President Biden to disentangle the U.S. from the grinding six-year civil war appear to have emboldened Houthi fighters. Last month, the Houthis launched more drone and missile strikes than in any other month during the conflict, U.S. officials say.
“The Houthis misunderstood Biden’s moves and saw them as a green light,” said a senior Saudi official.
Mr. Biden has scaled back U.S. support for the Saudi war effort and dispatched a special envoy to try to broker a cease-fire and eventual peace deal between the two sides. Ending Houthi strikes on Saudi Arabia is a central goal of Washington’s diplomatic push, U.S. officials said.
“If we cannot make progress now, the country will spiral into greater conflict and instability,” Tim Lenderking, the special U.S. envoy, said last week after presenting the Houthis with a new proposal to end the fighting. “Let us seize this moment.”
The war in Yemen has become a political albatross for Riyadh and Washington, with both trying to find an exit strategy from a conflict that has spawned what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. Aid groups say diplomatic deadlock is deepening the crisis by holding up delivery of food and fuel needed to avert widespread famine in Yemen.
Soon after taking office, Mr. Biden put a hold on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which has been Riyadh’s most important ally on the ground in Yemen. He also reversed a last-minute Trump administration move to officially declare the Houthis terrorists and impose economic sanctions on key leaders of the group.
Aid groups have applauded that move, saying a terror designation would have made it impossible for them to work in Houthi-controlled areas.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent the Saudi military into Yemen in 2015 to support a weak Yemen government struggling to stop the Houthis. The intervention quickly became a military quagmire, Iran stepped up support for the Houthis and the rebels captured the splintered country’s capital.
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Errant airstrikes that killed thousands of women and children over the years have eroded Western backing for the Saudi effort. Under pressure, then-President Trump reduced U.S. support for Saudis in 2018 by curtailing aerial refueling for planes carrying out the airstrikes.
But he also agreed to some key requests from the Gulf nations. Shortly before leaving office, Mr. Trump signed off on multibillion-dollar arms deals for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, including more precision-guided missiles used in Yemen.
The new approach to Yemen is part of a broader Biden administration shift in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh’s support in Washington has plunged in recent years. The war in Yemen and the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul fueled bipartisan discontent. Securing a peace deal in Yemen is one way U.S. officials say Riyadh can begin to repair its relationships in Washington.
The Pentagon is now focusing on providing assistance that’s defensive in nature, such as helping the Saudi military shoot down Houthi missiles and drones targeting the country.
The U.S. has also scaled back intelligence support for the Saudis. “It is more limited than it’s ever been,” one U.S. military official said.
More on Yemen’s Civil War
U.S. officials said surveillance flights over Yemen are more focused on the parallel threat posed by the country’s branch of al Qaeda, which is considered the most dangerous branch of the extremist group behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. has carried out scores of drone strikes over the past decade on al Qaeda forces in Yemen, where thousands of its members are believed to still operate. The U.S. will keep warning the Saudis of imminent Houthi rocket and drone strikes if they get intelligence on them, the official said.
While the U.S. is working to get out of Yemen, Iran is trying to deepen its reach, Saudi, Yemeni and U.S. officials say. The U.S. has repeatedly seized Iranian-made weapons off the coast of Yemen that American military officials said were sent by Tehran to aid Houthi forces.
Iran denies the American accusations.
U.S., Saudi and Yemeni officials also say Hasan Irlu, an Iranian military commander serving as Iran’s diplomat in Houthi-controlled Yemen, has brought a new level of battlefield sophistication to the Houthis.
Last December, the Trump administration accused Mr. Irlu of training Houthi fighters to use advanced weapons. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Mr. Irlu.
So far, the Houthis have rebuffed U.S. diplomatic pressure to agree to a cease-fire with Saudi Arabia, after which the Saudis would end their blockades of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, the main gateway for humanitarian aid, and the Sana’a airport.
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Houthi leaders have said they would only agree to a national cease-fire if the Saudis end the blockades first.
One Houthi official briefed on the continuing talks accused the U.S. of siding with Saudi Arabia by condemning Houthi missile and drone strikes on the Saudis.
“The U.S. doesn’t seem serious about ending the war in Yemen,” the official said. “When they show seriousness, we can meet and talk directly with them.”
Saudi officials want Mr. Biden to release his hold on the sale of precision-guided missiles, which they say are used only to defend their allies from Houthi attacks. U.S. officials expressed little openness to approving the sales, but suggested they might revisit the issue if Saudi Arabia disengages from Yemen.
From a command center bored into a gravel-covered hillside near Marib, Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Maqdishi, defense minister for the U.N.-backed government in Yemen, accused the Houthis of “using waves of soldiers like sheep.”
He said he hoped the U.S. would rethink its approach. “People trust the U.S. to stand with Saudi Arabia against Iran and its proxies,” he said. “We are putting our hope in that.”
—Saleh al-Batati in Oxford, England and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed to this article.
Write to Dion Nissenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOUSTON — Even as oil and gasoline prices rise, industry executives are resisting their usual impulse to pump more oil out of the ground, which could keep energy prices moving up as the economy recovers.
The oil industry is predictably cyclical: When oil prices climb, producers race to drill — until the world is swimming in petroleum and prices fall. Then, energy companies that overextended themselves tumble into bankruptcy.
That wash-rinse-repeat cycle has played out repeatedly over the last century, three times in the last 14 years alone. But, at least for the moment, oil and gas companies are not following those old stage directions.
An accelerating rollout of vaccines in the United States is expected to turbocharge the American economy this spring and summer, encouraging people to travel, shop and commute. In addition, President Biden’s coronavirus relief package will put more money in the pockets of consumers, especially those who are still out of work.
to less than zero.
That bizarre day seems to have become seared into the memories of oil executives. The industry was forced to idle hundreds of rigs and throttle many wells shut, some for good. Roughly 120,000 American oil and gas workers lost their jobs over the last year or so, and companies are expected to lay off 10,000 workers this year, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.
Yet, even as they are making more money thanks to the higher prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.
“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference, an annual gathering that was virtual this year.
several million barrels of oil off the market. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.
rising concerns about climate change reduce the demand for fossil fuels in favor of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Russia has been pressing Saudi Arabia to loosen production caps, while Kazakhstan, Iraq and several other countries are exporting more. Even Iran and Venezuela, which have struggled to sell oil because of U.S. sanctions, are beginning to export more.
attacked American military forces.
Some tensions in the region could ease if the Biden administration and Iranian officials restart negotiations on a new nuclear agreement to replace the one that was negotiated by the Obama administration and abandoned by the Trump administration. Iran would then most likely export more oil.
Of course, U.S. oil executives have little control over those geopolitical matters and say they are doing what they can to avoid another abrupt reversal.
“We’re not betting on higher prices to bail us out,” Michael Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive, told investors on Tuesday.
Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.
“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”