Surprisingly, Joe Biden has done some good as President. On Yemen, he ostensibly looks to be favoring diplomacy and ending support for the Saudis’ “offensive” operations, including stopping all “relevant” arms sales. Two U.S. sales of precision guided munitions, from Boeing and Raytheon, have been indefinitely paused. And the administration just rescinded the State Department’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization as well. The designation was a vicious last-minute move by the Trump administration. It was a transparent attempt to criminalize aid and diplomacy with Yemen, as well as to tighten the Saudis’ stranglehold over the country where nearly a quarter of a million people have already been killed or starved to death.
Some 70% of the Yemeni population live in northern Yemen’s Houthi territory. Since the war began, north Yemen has been under a savage U.S.-backed, Saudi naval blockade. 80% of the country relies on aid to survive and north Yemen is where the widespread malnutrition is most intense. In essence, the designation was a death sentence for those civilians. The Houthis have been in power in Sanaa for six years. The U.S.-backed, Saudi puppet President has spent much of that time on house arrest in Riyadh. Aid groups who wished to help Yemenis in the north, would necessarily have to work with the Houthis and therefore open themselves up to being hit with U.S. sanctions. This policy was designed to tie the hands of the Biden administration as well, who had, during the campaign, already indicated their intention to end the war.
But the U.S. should force the Saudi/UAE coalition to end the war now. At a minimum, Biden should: end all arms sales to the Saudis and the UAE, have the U.S. military promptly discontinue enforcing the coalition’s blockade, immediately lift all sanctions, cease intelligence sharing with the Saudis, cut off logistical assistance, pull all U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia, remove the fighter plane squadron there, and flex America’s diplomatic muscle insisting the coalition, its allies, and enablers end the war.
For years, the U.S. and its Saudi allies have conflated the Houthis with Iran. The administration should drop this propaganda and quit lying about Iran supplying arms and drones to the Houthis that supposedly necessitates still further U.S. “defense” of the Saudi dictatorship. For almost six years, since the Barrack Obama administration began the war, the poorest country in the Middle East where, even prior to the war, 90% of food was imported, has been blockaded by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The coalition has bombed civilian infrastructure continuously. This, combined with the blockade, caused a massive outbreak of cholera; with over two million cases, and thousands of deaths, it was the worst in recorded history. Under the Trump administration, desperately needed aid to Yemen was cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, making matters worse. The Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia were a direct retaliation for Washington and Riyadh’s six-year, genocidal war, waged against the Yemeni people. UN aid groups have referred to the war as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The coalition’s mass murder spree was bound to cause some blowback.
Biden’s National Security Advisor, the hawkish Jake Sullivan, has assured us Biden will continue the Special Forces’ war against al Qaeda in Yemen. But Biden should end that unconstitutional and absurdly counter-productive war as well. As if watering a plant, the drone war against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which often kills civilians, has only increased the group’s ranks and made them stronger. Given their role on the ground as part of the U.S. backed coalition, AQAP has grown immensely more powerful since the war against their enemies, the Houthis, began. Unfortunately, like the other post 9/11 counterterrorism operations afflicted with much the same myriad intrinsic and strategic flaws, an end to this war is unlikely to come any time soon. There is far too much political and imperial value involved for the hawks to put America first, much less the local populations’ security and peace.
It remains to be seen what “offensive” operations and “relevant” arms sales means exactly. As they say, the devil is in the details. But tentatively, there seems to be reasons for hope. But make no mistake, right now is the time for activists, and concerned citizens opposed to the brutal Yemen war, to redouble their efforts and apply the most pressure on the administration, as well as Congress.