The fighting in Yemen has continued to increase, despite Biden’s recent announcement to end US support for offensive action from the Saudi-led coalition.
On Thursday the UK, US, Germany and France all sent their representatives to meet and discuss the most pressing foreign policy issues. The quartet, in a joint statement to the press, asserted their willingness to end the war in Yemen through the pursuit of UN peace negotiation, yet went on to affirm their commitment to the security of their allies. They then condemned the actions of Ansarallah (the Houthis) and failed to condemn Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes.
It is important to track this type of framing of the conflict, especially following Joe Biden’s announcement on Yemen, in order to track the likelihood that this framing will lead to an actual end to hostilities.
Firstly, Joe Biden did not actually tell us he would end the war in Yemen or freeze arms sales. Instead, Biden pledged an end to US support of Saudi offensive actions in Yemen, whilst affirming the right of their ally to engage in defensive action. The President also stated that “relevant” arms sales, to offensive action, would be cancelled, not arms sales to help the war effort in general.
Despite this nuance, many did not want to believe that the Biden administration had duped the people, and that the same Biden who helped start the war in Yemen, under former President Obama, was still in the business of war in the Arab world.
Even after taking Ansarallah off the designated terrorist list, the war has taken an even more violent turn due to the continued attacks by the US-backed Saudi coalition. Ansarallah have launch several strikes on mainland Saudi Arabia, and are committed to an offensive to seize control of the resource-rich Marib area from their Saudi-backed opposition. This as Saudi Arabia has sent more troops to Yemen and are continuing their airstrike campaign. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is also duking it out with Oman in the Al-Mahra governorate, in Eastern Yemen, in order to secure the area’s ports and facilities to benefit its own interests.
A Phony Attempt To End The War
The US and its British allies are refusing to practice what they preach in Yemen. Whilst both the US and UK governments state that it’s a top priority to end the war, the United Kingdom has just signed a record-breaking arms deal with the KSA, whilst the Biden administration has continued working closely with the Saudis on logistics.
Ansarallah have offered to halt their attacks on Saudi Arabia, in return for an end to the coalition’s airstrike campaign. Yet this potential solution has been completely ignored from the side of the Kingdom and its Western allies, despite Biden having sworn an end to US support for exactly this type of offensive action in Yemen.
Now the West has chosen to focus on condemning Ansarallah for their current offensive, against Saudi-backed forces, to take the gas-producing Marib region. Marib City is the last real Northern Saudi-backed government controlled stronghold, and its fall to Ansarallah would give the group a strategic advantage in any forthcoming peace talks – if they are to come.
The ongoing struggle for the control of Marib threatens to temporarily displace hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians and potentially take the lives of thousands. If the United States did wish to enter a meaningful dialogue with Ansarallah, however, there would be a possibility of installing a ceasefire. Yet due to the continuation of the US’s pro-Saudi stance, its military cooperation with the Kingdom, and its refusal to strike a balanced approach to dealing with the conflict, an immediate ceasefire seems unlikely.
The reality now facing Yemen, especially when it comes to the Ansarallah push to take Marib City, is one of desperation. The Houthi government understands that taking Marib will give them the strategic edge and force Saudi to come to the table. With Saudi’s Hadi government forces losing their last northern stronghold, they will be confined to the South of the country, and will not only have lost access to the most densely populated areas and ports, but also resource rich areas in the country.
For the Ansarallah government, based in the country’s capital Sanaa, they understand their position as having been de-legitimized as an “Iranian proxy” and rogue “rebel” group. If they are to enter into future negotiations with the Saudi-UAE backed unity government of Yemen’s south, they must be in a position of strength in order to walk away with the best possible terms.
If Saudi Arabia is dealt severe defeats on the battlefield, and loses the possibility of gaining access to key trade routes and resources, they will have little left to care about but their own security interests. This means that the Saudis will be seeking to co-exist, so long as Ansarallah cease their attacks on their territory and abide by a ceasefire.
So far, the Ansarallah campaign has been largely successful at driving Saudi-backed forces from key territories in the country. It is due to these military victories that the Saudis seek any sort of diplomatic solution at all. The war on Yemen was waged in order to suit Western and Persian Gulf Monarchies as they hoped to take advantage of Yemen’s resources and trade routes; also ensuring that there could be no independent Yemeni government which would challenge Western regional hegemony.
Despite the fact that offensives, like the recent initiative to take Marib, are bound to wind up harming civilians caught in the middle of war, Ansarallah are given little choice unless they are willing to allow the Saudis to subjugate Yemen, leading to far more suffering.
The most important priorities now, should be to protect civilians and ensure an end to the famine in the country, as well as end to the immense human suffering taking place in the world’s number one humanitarian crisis. Accomplishing these priorities means taking a balanced approach, favoring diplomacy and ensuring Yemeni independence. Yet despite the rhetoric of Biden and his European allies, they seem to be taking the very opposite approach to ending the 6 year-long war.