FILE PHOTO: A boy rides with Houthi followers on the back of a patrol truck during the funeral of Houthi fighters killed during recent battles against government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE: DEEP DIVE

President Joe Biden will cut ties with Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in Yemen’s civil war, reversing a policy not only held by former President Donald Trump but former President Barack Obama as well.

The move signals an effort to restore a U.S. emphasis on diplomacy, democracy and human rights as the fighting has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. The war highlights a continued regional conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which support the internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels, respectively. In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the Yemen government with the help of U.S. logistical and intelligence support after Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital, leading to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with 4 million civilians displaced and 24 million. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 2015.

While Biden promised to end relevant arms deals in the conflict, the president also emphasized that the U.S. would continue to help and support Saudi Arabia. The move ends offensive operations in Yemen, but the announcement does not affect U.S. military operations against Yemen’s al Qaeda affiliate because those actions are part of an effort to protect the U.S. and American interests in the region, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Biden emphasized the importance to end the war in Yemen, which “has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” 

“I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks,” Biden said. “This war has to end. And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”

The U.S. Treasury authorized most transactions with Iran-supported Houthi rebels for the next month to increase humanitarian aid flow, effectively delaying former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute terror group designation. A report by United Nations experts warned that Iran is providing Houthi rebels with weapons, adding the civilians face devastating consequences as the situation in the country deteriorates. Republican lawmakers put forward three new bills to make it harder for Biden’s administration to lift sanctions against Iran to entice the country into negotiations around their growing nuclear program. Biden will meet virtually with the National Security Council to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss Iran online with foreign ministers of the U.K., Germany, and France.

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the country is looking forward to working with Biden’s administration to address conflicts in the region. The Saudi Press Agency said in a press release the Kingdom welcomes Biden’s position supporting diplomatic efforts in Yemen.

“Within that framework, the Kingdom has undertaken several important steps to improve the chances of advancing the political track, including the Coalition’s unilateral cease-fire declaration, in response to the UN Secretary General’s call,” the release continued.

‏Both Yemen’s government and Houthi rebel leaders affirmed they are ready to work for peace following Biden’s speech. The internationally recognized government, which is backed by a Saudi-lead military coalition, lauded Timothy Lenderking’s appointment as U.S. envoy as an important step to end the war with Houthis. Houthi Spokesperson Mohamed Abdel Salam said the rebels support the administration’s approach, noting, “The real proof to achieve peace in Yemen is an end to the aggression and a lifting of the blockade.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

What does President Joe Biden announcement on ending US support for Saudis in Yemen war mean? – MEAWW – 2/5/2021
The conflict started in late 2014 between a weak Yemeni government and the Houthis and soon escalated with a number of countries, including the Saudis and eight other Arab states backed by the US, the UK and France starting to conduct airstrikes against the rebels. While pledging to end the US support for the war, Biden said: “The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” It was a U-turn of sorts for Biden for he was the No. 2 of the Obama administration that had joined the war.

Biden Rejects Trump’s Foreign Policy Moves From Yemen to Germany – Bloomberg – 2/4/2021
President Joe Biden announced he’s halting and reversing Trump administration foreign policy initiatives — including troop drawdowns in Germany and support for a Saudi-led offensive in Yemen that turned into a humanitarian disaster — as he sought to boost morale at the State Department. […] Biden’s vision for foreign policy stands in stark contrast to Trump’s “America First” approach in which the former president often shunned alliances and resisted acting against adversarial moves taken by Russia and other countries.

Pariah with benefits: US aiding Saudi defense despite chill – Associated Press – 2/5/2021
He said he would make the kingdom “pay the price” for human rights abuses and “make them in fact the pariah that they are.” But if Biden is making Saudi Arabia a pariah now, it’s a pariah with benefits. While Biden announced Thursday he was making good on his campaign commitment to end U.S. support for a five-year Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, his administration is making clear it won’t abandon U.S. military assistance for the kingdom and plans to help Saudi Arabia strengthen its own defenses.

Biden declares ‘America is back.’ Mike Pompeo asks: ‘Back to when ISIS controlled a caliphate?’ – Conservative Review – 2/4/2021
“America is back. Diplomacy is back,” the president said, adding that after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that the U.S. would rebound “stronger, more determined and better-equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy because we have fought it for ourselves,” The Washington Post reported. Pompeo, who served under President Donald Trump, told Fox News’ Trey Gowdy in an interview later that Americans have already seen Biden’s record on foreign policy when he was vice president for President Barack Obama, and that it could be cause for concern.

Biden signals that America is back, but not like before – CNN – 2/5/2021
We still don’t really know what “America is back” means yet. In his first major foreign policy speech as President, Joe Biden on Thursday took significant steps on pulling support for the war in Yemen, boosting LGBT rights and removing Donald Trump’s draconian caps on refugees. But on the most nettlesome issues — Russia, China, how Biden will honor his vow to save global democracy and what he will do about nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran — there’s not much to go on.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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