On Feb. 4, President Joe Biden announced that the United States will no longer provide support for the Saudi and UAE-led coalition’s offensive military campaign in Yemen.
Biden’s announcement was the culmination of years of tireless advocacy from Yemeni-Americans and grassroots allies around the country. It is a historic win for the peace movement and proof of the power of our relentless advocacy. As Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), a leading congressional voice for ending the crisis in Yemen, said, “The folks that made that decision possible … are the many activists who raised the plight of the Yemeni people to our national consciousness.”
We at FCNL are proud to be among those who have worked to end America’s shameful complicity in the horrific Yemen war.
Adding to this good news, the Biden administration made another critically important announcement Feb. 5. The administration reversed former President Trump’s reckless, last-minute designation of Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists. The Houthis share much of the blame for rights violations and atrocities in Yemen with the Saudi/UAE-led coalition. But while policy analysts noted that the designation would have little effect on the Houthis, the U.N. and the international humanitarian community urgently warned that it would carry extreme humanitarian consequences. If left in place, the designation would have halted the flow of commercial and humanitarian goods to millions of already-suffering Yemenis, causing what the U.N. warned would be a mass famine unlike anything the world has seen in decades.
These are highly encouraging developments and promising indications of a major shift in U.S. policy toward Yemen. But as we celebrate these victories, we must remember that millions of Yemenis continue to suffer and die as the war rages on. More must be done.
First, the United States should substantially increase humanitarian aid to Yemen and pressure Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade. Biden should reverse the Trump administration’s suspension of USAID funding for the roughly 80% of Yemenis living in Houthi-controlled areas.
Next, the United States must do everything in its power to facilitate a ceasefire and a comprehensive diplomatic agreement to end the war. Halting U.S. support for the war and appointing a special envoy for Yemen are promising steps in the right direction. Now the administration must also push for a new, balanced U.N. security council resolution and remain committed to bringing about an end to the violence.
Congress has an important role to play as well. As a start, members should urge the administration to publicly clarify what it considers “offensive” versus “defensive” support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Building on Biden’s executive actions, Congress should pass legislation to permanently prohibit all forms of support that enable Saudi Arabia and the UAE to continue their horrific campaign in Yemen. That includes banning intelligence, logistical, and maintenance support for the coalition’s operations as well as permanently halting all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE so long as the war and blockade continue.
Our collective advocacy for Yemen has made a real difference. We must remain vigilant and redouble our commitment to ending Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and America’s complicity in it. We can’t afford to let up the pressure before we achieve an end to this senseless war.