ALGIERS, Algeria – President Joe Biden’s first foreign policy move was a pledge to help end the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – the war in Yemen – “step by step our diplomacy” and “stop all American support for offensive operations.” The war in Yemen, including the sale of relevant weapons. “
More than a year later, the war has escalated – with a sharp rise in civilian casualties, a growing number of Yemenis facing starvation, less humanitarian funding, less international oversight of airstrikes and more sophisticated attacks on conflict-torn Yemen’s neighbors.
A possible new ceasefire for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan could be reached, the UN special envoy for Yemen indicated on Wednesday, as he announced a new peace plan. The Saudi-led coalition announced a unilateral ceasefire starting Wednesday, just days after Houthi rebels announced their intention to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
A senior State Department official told ABC News: “I don’t want to exaggerate this because we’ve been here before, but there’s a chance that with the new special envoy we really have a way to come up with a credible plan.” .
A temporary ceasefire and new peace plans have arrived and now, seven years later, the Yemeni people are left to suffer the consequences. About 400,000 people are believed to have died from war, disease and starvation, according to a United Nations report. More than 20 million – two-thirds of the population – are now dependent on humanitarian aid, of which two million children are severely malnourished.
“The world cannot forget Yemen,” said Tamuna Sabadze, country director of the International Rescue Committee, an aid group on Yemen’s soil – the largest country in California and one of the poorest in the long Arab world. “Suffering has been going on for a long time. Those influential on the warring parties need to work for a diplomatic solution to this crisis.”
The Houthis, an Iranian-backed northern rebel group, came to power in 2014 when they seized the capital, Sanaa, amid clashes in the Arab Spring. In response, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and an Arab coalition launched a military intervention – seven years ago this past Saturday – to support the Yemeni government and to remove from power what they saw as an Iranian proxy.
Biden turned his attention to the war early in his term, including the appointment of career diplomat Tim Landerking as Yemen’s special envoy. On the one hand, critics, including Republicans and Saudi and Emirati officials, have blamed the growing fight for his decision to remove Houthis from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. On the other hand, members of Biden’s own party in particular have complained that the administration is not doing enough to pressure the Saudi-led coalition to end the war.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Not the last year of diplomatic efforts.
But in Rocky’s relationship with Gulf Arab partners, the Biden administration is leaning towards them – doubling support for their defense and increasing pressure on the Houthis. During a visit to the region on Tuesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. They spent two hours together at a private residence in MBZ, known as the powerful prince, in Morocco – with a 30-minute walk around the compound.
A senior State Department official said Wednesday that the two discussed “different mechanisms” to increase US support for the UAE’s security, although not a formal agreement or security guarantee. But in the wake of a growing number of deadly Houthi attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the United States is now “considering everything from sanctions to other ways to prevent sanctions.” [the Houthis] Not just the UAE, but the Saudis as well as being able to carry out attacks inside Yemen, “they added.
The Houthi attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and deadly – killing civilians, hitting airports and oil installations, and using Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles and drones. Many see the militant group as a proxy for Iran, which has taken the opportunity to fight to destabilize its main rivals in the region, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are less likely to come under some kind of pressure, however, as the Houthis are being re-added to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, a title that carries similar sanctions to those already under Huthi, but provides for possible criminal justice. Anyone who supports them.
Officials in the UAE are particularly lobbying for a reversal, with Biden announcing in January that there is a consideration and the State Department has consistently called the Houthi attack “terrorism.”
But even after they reviewed the re-nomination of the Houthis, a senior State Department official said the administration’s argument against the title remained for the past year – it would limit aid flowing to Yemen due to the threat of lawsuits.
“It simply came to our notice then [the Emiratis] And others in the region view the FTO title in the same way, where we see it primarily through an impact on our ability to provide and support humanitarian assistance, ”a senior State Department official told ABC News.
Still, there is talk of strong support for the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others where Biden has some members of his own party.
“Saudi airstrikes and air and sea blockades have claimed thousands of lives and threatened millions more with famine, triggering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. On this horrific anniversary – seven years and three presidential administrations – we call for the brutality of the Saudi-led coalition.” For an immediate end to American involvement in the military operation, “Sen. Barney Sanders and three progressive House members – Pramila Jaipal, Peter Defaggio and Roe Khanna – have added that they will use a combat power offer to force their hands.
The U.S. military’s involvement in the conflict has been limited since November 2018, when, under similar bilateral pressure, the Trump administration cut off mid-air fuel for Saudi-led coalition aircraft. The United Nations has accused the air force of potential war crimes – indiscriminate bombings and targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The Houthis have also been charged with possible war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks and landmines, according to the same UN panel. Increasingly, they have carried out complex, coordinated attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – one last Friday that burned down two Saudi Aramco installations and sent black smoke into the air. Although no casualties were reported, Saudi officials said it would affect oil production amid a global energy crisis.
The war has worsened in recent months – the deadliest January since 2018 – just three months after the UN Human Rights Council voted to dismiss a UN panel investigating war crimes.
Although most civilians were killed in the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, a senior State Department official said the coalition was “ready to deploy” in talks on a ceasefire and ultimately a political solution.
The coalition began a unilateral ceasefire on Wednesday. The new UN special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, welcomed it as part of a call for a ceasefire for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend. Grundberg is holding extensive discussions not only with the warring countries, but also with political parties, civil society activists and women’s rights advocates.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, a Riyadh-based bloc of regional countries, is hosting a peace conference of Yemeni parties this week.
The Houthis have rejected both the Saudi ceasefire and the GCC summit, but announced a few days ago that they would suspend border attacks until Wednesday, with the coalition refusing to extend it until certain demands are met. These demands – the lifting of restrictions on Yemeni ports and the closure of Sana’a’s airport – have not been met, but it is unclear whether the Houthis have resumed attacks.
However, Grundberg expressed some hope on Wednesday that his party was “making progress” on reaching a ceasefire – at the GCC summit, saying “Yemen needs a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, the people of Yemen are suffering – Russia’s war against Ukraine has exacerbated the crisis. Yemen imports about one-fifth of its wheat from the two countries, and as energy prices rise, it is already suffering a severe humanitarian response.
It leaves kids like “Isaac” with a bleak future. In addition to widespread malnutrition, about 10,000 children have been killed in the war. Out of about 2 million children out of school, more than 25,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed.
Isaac, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, told Save the Children’s aid group that his school is “certainly not safe anymore.” A 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a sniper.
“I assumed the sniper would release me when he saw that I was just picking up the ball. He doesn’t usually shoot at us, he rarely does, but this time he did,” he said, according to the group.