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U.S. Support for the Saudi Coalition War on Yemen Is Finally Ending

Annelle Sheline comments on the encouraging news that President Biden will shortly announce the end of U.S. support for Saudi coalition “offensive operations” in Yemen:

Biden’s team may see the withdrawal of U.S. support for offensive military action as fulfilling his stated commitment. Yet the move is insufficient to address U.S. complicity in Yemen’s misery. Biden must insist that Saudi Arabia and the UAE fully withdraw from Yemen and end their support for warring factions. Foreign support tends to lengthen civil wars, and given the external resources supporting opposing sides in Yemen, the war is not going to end anytime soon. As long as the U.S. remains the preeminent military force in the region and its main supplier of weapons, America is culpable for Yemen’s destruction.

Ending support for offensive operations is an important step in the right direction. It does not go quite as far in cutting off all U.S. military assistance to the Saudi coalition states as I would like, but it is a very good start and Biden deserves credit for doing this so soon after taking office. Sheline is correct that the U.S. will need to do more to pressure the Saudi coalition to end its campaign, lift the blockade, and cease their economic warfare against the people of Yemen. Biden’s announcement today marks a major win for supporters of a more peaceful and restrained foreign policy, and it is the result of many years of activism and advocacy by Yemenis and Yemeni-Americans and the work of many antiwar organizations. We should be proud that U.S. support for Saudi coalition attacks is finally ending, but we need to keep the pressure on the Saudi coalition until Yemen is finally at peace. That will mean continued pressure on Congress and the White House to halt all arms sales to belligerents in Yemen at least until they halt their involvement in the conflict. It also means holding the Biden administration accountable if they should backslide on this policy.

The announcement comes on the same day that the Biden administration has named its new special envoy on Yemen, Tim Lenderking. Lenderking has significant experience in Yemen and is respected by all sides in the conflict. Together with the announced end of support for Saudi coalition attacks on Yemen, Lenderking’s appointment signals that the Biden administration is serious about bringing the war to an end and not merely ending U.S. involvement in it. The war is the main driver of the country’s humanitarian crisis, and until there is a lasting ceasefire the crisis will continue to worsen. The Biden administration seems to understand that, which is why they issued a license to suspend the sanctions connected to Pompeo’s malevolent decision to designate the Houthis as terrorists. Now they need to follow up on these actions by reversing the designation, resuming full funding for humanitarian aid, and pursuing a new Security Council resolution that can serve as the foundation for a political settlement.

The U.S. supported the Saudi coalition war on Yemen for almost six years. In that time, the people of Yemen have suffered widespread malnutrition and starvation, cholera epidemics, horrific atrocities from indiscriminate bombing and shelling, the destruction of their infrastructure, and the wrecking of their economy. Hundreds of thousands have perished, millions have been displaced, and tens of millions have been impoverished. The long-term effects of malnutrition and trauma on an entire generation of young Yemenis ensure that the costs of the war will continue to add up for decades to come. U.S. complicity in this war has been a national disgrace, and it is incumbent on our government to support a negotiated compromise to end the fighting that our policy helped to fuel. It is undeniably good news that U.S. support for this indefensible, atrocious war is now coming to an end, but the U.S. now has an obligation to put out the fires that it so recklessly stoked.

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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