The Biden Administration Announces the Termination of U.S. Support for Offensive Operations in Yemen

On January 4, 2021, the Biden administration announced that it will be ending U.S. support for offensive operations.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan made this announcement during a White House press briefing. 

“Today, he [Biden] will announce an end to American support for offensive operations in Yemen,” Sullivan said before Biden gave his speech.

In his speech, Biden revealed that the U.S. government would cut off its support for offensive operations in Yemen and named a new envoy to take charge of the government’s diplomatic mission to bring an end to the civil war there. 

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“This war has to end,” Biden said during his first presidential address on foreign policy. “We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen including relevant arms sales.”

“At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks and UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries,” Biden declared. “We are going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.” 

The president named Tim Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary of State for Iran, Iraq, and regional affairs, to be in charge of the U.S. diplomatic mission to bring the Yemeni Civil War to an end.

The U.S. reached out to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to inform them of its decision, according to Blinken’s announcement. The Saudi and the UAE governments have launched attacks against the rebel Houthi forces in Yemen since 2015.

The conflict kicked off in 2014 when the government led by then-president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi clashed with the Houthi movement. The Houthi insurgency was able to successfully take over the capital city of Sana’a and the government, thus forcing Hadi to flee.

The Saudi’s responded with their own intervention, which involved other countries such as the UAE, Bahrain,Egypt, and Kuwait among others, to push back the Houthis and restore Hadi’s government. Both Hadi and the Houthis claim to be the legitimate heads of the Yemeni government.

Although Iran has not provided boots on the ground, it has been reported that the Islamic Republic has provided the Houthis with military resources. This conflict is commonly viewed as a geopolitical struggle between Saudia Arabia and Iran, which has raged on for multiple decades via proxy conflicts

The U.S. government has provided military assistance along with logistic and intelligence support to Saudi-led coalition. Last week, the State Department revealed that it would be freezing and taking a second look at arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Yemeni conflict has been quite costly. According to a report by the International Rescue Committee, 80 percent of Yemenis need humanitarian aid and roughly 17,000 people are living under conditions of famine. The U.N. reported that 230,000 Yemenis have died in this conflict. 

This is probably one of the only good things to come out of the Biden administration. The Yemeni Civil War is in Saudi Arabia’s backyard and should work with its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council to sort out this conflict. The U.S. should stay out of this mess.

Unfortunately, the hardened cynic in me believes that the resources the U.S. is pulling away from Yemen will likely redirect its resources towards the Great Power competition the Pentagon is advocating for against China and Russia.

Any progress is welcome though.

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