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Yemen Can’t Wait for a Ceasefire

Michael Horton is similarly skeptical about Mattis and Pompeo’s calls for a ceasefire in Yemen:

Yet these exhortations are meaningless without real pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are poised to launch yet another offensive on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.

The first offensive on the port, dubbed ”Operation Golden Victory,” began five months ago and was meant to be a quick strike that would eject the Houthi rebels and their allied forces. It has been anything but quick. The Houthis have launched successive and largely successful counter-offensives.

Meanwhile, as a tragic result of this horrible war, millions of Yemenis face starvation in what is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. That may be exactly what is desired by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their backers—which so far has included the United States.

Last night in Sanaa, the Saudi coalition launched dozens of airstrikes. Meanwhile, they have been gathering reinforcements to begin a new assault on Hodeidah. The offensive on the port city has already displaced hundreds of thousands and threatened the food supply for millions more in the interior, and a new assault could be all that it takes to kick millions of starving people into the abyss. Four weeks from now, the damage done to Yemen’s civilian population may already be done and no one will be be able to undo it. That is why there must be an immediate ceasefire, and that begins with an immediate end to U.S. support for the war.

Former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche doesn’t think much of the administration’s proposal:

If the Administration is serious about the need to end this war, Mr. Pompeo should get back on his airplane and fly to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and Muscat and demonstrate a commitment on the part of the U.S. to use its influence to produce a ceasefire. Otherwise, these statements look like a desperate attempt by the Administration to get ahead of the wave of condemnation that has engulfed Saudi Arabia. … Notably, Secretary Pompeo’s statement failed to even call for the principal parties to the conflict to take steps simultaneously to implement a ceasefire, instead insisting that Houthi missile strikes into Saudi territory must stop first, after which coalition air strikes would cease. That is not a serious proposal, that is fundamentally an invitation for the war to continue.

Seche’s point about the sequencing in the ceasefire proposal is an important one. Even when they say they want a halt to the fighting, the administration can’t help but give preferential treatment to the side they support. The administration has the greatest leverage with the coalition to make them halt their airstrikes at once, but as always they refuse to use it.

Iona Craig has been covering Yemen since 2010, and has been one of the best reporters on the war. She sees the administration’s proposal as an attempt to discourage support for H.Con.Res. 138 and S.J.Res. 54:

Members of Congress should vote for these resolutions to make sure that the Saudis and Emiratis get the message that they aren’t going to be receiving U.S. support anymore. If the Trump administration were serious about ending the fighting, they would have already withdrawn that support months ago. It seems more likely that the administration is more concerned with avoiding taking the blame for the catastrophe in Yemen than they are with doing what they can to prevent it from getting worse. That leaves it up to Congress to force them to stop enabling this war. Yemen can’t wait any longer.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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