February 5, 2021


“President Joe Biden on Thursday declared a halt to U.S. support for a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen, demanding that the more than six-year war, widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, ‘has to end.’… The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left supports Biden’s decision and calls for an end to the war in Yemen.

“Last week, the administration announced a temporary freeze on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia as well as a review of arms sales to the United Arab Emirates, including the $23 billion arms deal that went through in the final days of the Trump administration. [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken is also reviewing the last-minute Trump decision to designate the Houthis as a terrorist [group], which humanitarian groups say could hamper the delivery of aid to areas they control. According to the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, the decision is likely to be reversed…

“I wrote in November that Yemen would be an early test of whether [the] Biden team was serious about its promise of a new approach to the Middle East—and to Saudi Arabia in particular. It’s early days, but so far, it appears to be real… Also meaningful: Sullivan emphasized in his announcement that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had been informed of the decision before it was announced. This doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it, but it marks a change from the Trump era when the governments involved were often blindsided by the president’s foreign policy announcements.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“It remains to be seen exactly how this will play out, but as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted in a statement, it looks like the start of a diplomatic push to get Saudi Arabia to end the brutal war in which it has been bogged down since 2015, obtain a general ceasefire, and coordinate an international aid effort. The Saudi military basically cannot do anything without U.S. support, and any strong signals from America that it should knock it off probably will be heeded. That's especially true now that Trump is gone, and Saudi dictator Mohammad bin Salman thus faces possible recrimination for ordering the cold-blooded murder of a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, back in 2018…

It is worth noting that while Biden is reversing a Trump decision, the Yemen policy actually originated under the Obama administration. It is a marked difference from the early months of 2009, when Obama kept on George W. Bush's secretary of defense and planned for a massive troop surge in Afghanistan. Perhaps two decades of expensive, bloody, and totally unsuccessful wars are enough?”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

A political adviser to the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament writes that “It is time for American and European conservatives to start a frank transatlantic conversation on the merits of their continued association with a regime that violates their core tenets

“There are few things conservatives value more than order, stability, and predictability. Yet Saudi policies under Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, have undermined all of these. His now five-years-long war in Yemen, apart from all the humanitarian disasters it has inflicted on the Yemeni people, has empowered extremists from al-Qaeda and ISIS…

“Another core conservative value is the defense of religious liberty. On this score, there are few countries in the world that perform worse than Saudi Arabia. No religion is officially recognized other than the rigid Wahhabi form of Islam that gave birth to both al-Qaeda and ISIS. No churches or synagogues are allowed to operate… For comparison, in Iran, much maligned by Western conservatives, Armenian and Assyrian Christians and Jews enjoy a certain level of religious liberty and churches and synagogues function openly.”
Eldar Mamedov, American Conservative

“The war is known as the Saudi-American war in Yemen. The blockade of the Houthi-controlled ports is referred to as the American blockade. Starting in mid December 2020, an online campaign circulated on Twitter in Arabic with the hashtag ‘Yes to the end of the American blockade of Yemen.’…

“Fully ending U.S. support for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen is an important first step for the Biden administration. Yet it will not be enough. If Biden tries to wash his hands of the Yemen issue simply by ending U.S. involvement, this will not remove the blood of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis already dead and dying. Instead, Biden must require the Saudis and Emiratis to fully withdraw from Yemen and end their support for factions there. The Biden administration should also rejoin the [Iran deal] without imposing additional conditions, in order to move towards a functional relationship with Iran as quickly as possible. There is no more time to waste.”
Annelle Sheline, Responsible Statecraft

From the Right

The right is divided.

The right is divided.

“The choice to intervene in Yemen’s civil war occurred on President Barack Obama’s watch after very little interagency debate. A conflict that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman claimed would be over in a few weeks has instead dragged on for years. The Houthis will and, Iranian enabled, capability to resist the Saudi air campaign was consistently underestimated. With every passing month, more evidence of Saudi war crimes emerged, making U.S. assistance to Riyadh even tougher to justify…

“The Biden administration has adopted a number of smart decisions on Yemen early on, including adopting a one-month waiver which nullifies Trump’s designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. That waiver has less to do with sympathy for the Houthis and more to do with ensuring food aid can continue to be delivered to the bulk of Yemen’s population. The appointment of foreign service officer Tim Lenderking as U.S. special envoy to Yemen is also a sign that the Biden administration will at least try to act as a neutral party to the war. Still, the top line is clear: The United States can’t get out of Yemen fast enough.”
Daniel DePetris, Washington Examiner

“Over 80 percent of Yemen’s population is in dire need of humanitarian assistance to survive. Over 14.3 million people are in acute need of aid today, with the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) predicting that 47,000 people will face famine conditions by June 2021. This, alongside one of the worst cholera outbreaks in history, an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and decimated infrastructure are products of a manmade catastrophe caused by the fighting and the Saudi-led coalition’s sea and air blockade of the country.”
Alexander Langlois, National Interest

“Arms sales should be guided by U.S. interests, not support for an intervention that undermines our interests and values. This is a real concern. The Saudis have consistently failed to differentiate between Houthi armed formations and civilians. Saudi aircrews have indiscriminately bombed civilians on several occasions. The U.S. will have more blood on its hands if it continues to assist this belligerence. Ending arms sales would encourage Saudi Arabia to settle…

A broader recalibration of the U.S.-Saudi relationship is long overdue. There is no grand strategy behind America’s close ties with Saudi Arabia, especially given America’s newfound energy independence. Iran is also far less powerful than it is made out to be. Much of the hyperhawkishness directed at Iran serves Saudi interests, not American ones. Why can't Saudi Arabia, with its vast wealth and well-equipped military, deter Iran from attacking its interests?”
Will Krumholz, Washington Examiner

Critics, however, argue that “Iran is building up the Houthis as a Yemeni counterpart to Hezbollah. As Hezbollah threatens Israel with precision-guided rockets and missiles, so the Houthis are threatening Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the Houthis provide Iran with a perch on the Red Sea, which guards the approach to the Suez Canal from the Indian Ocean…

“Instead of forcing Iran to retreat, the Biden administration is working to drive out Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, which intervened in Yemen to stop Iran’s advance. In his first major foreign policy speech, delivered yesterday, Mr. Biden announced an end to all support for operations in the Saudi-led war, including arms sales. Following on the review of the Houthi terrorism designation, this will embolden Iran and demoralize Saudi Arabia and all American allies who are threatened by Iranian aggression.”
Michael Doran, Wall Street Journal

“Arms sales to the UAE were a part of the negotiations that led to the Abraham Accords, the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel. By backing away from the UAE deal, Biden risks unraveling the diplomacy that led the UAE and several other Arab states to embrace Israel. The big winner is Iran, which wants to weaken the Arab states and discourage Israel-Arab partnerships…

President Donald Trump left his successor an extraordinary gift of peace and stability… Blinken is thus far the only member of the Biden administration to acknowledge that Trump succeeded — in confronting China, forging ties between Serbia and Kosovo, and orchestrating the Abraham Accords… But the rest of the administration will not accept that the Obama-Biden approach to the Middle East failed, or that Trump’s ‘America first’ approach succeeded. As a result, instead of peace, Biden may be putting the region back on a path to war.”
Joel Pollak, Breitbart

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