Biden pledged to end the war in Yemen, but is doing the opposite
Two weeks into his term, US President Joe Biden claimed that he would seek a negotiated peace in Yemen, thus shunning Saudi Arabia. Now he is performing a 180-degree pivot. With such arbitrary foreign policy positions the US is causing instability and weakening its own hand.
On December 13, US Senator Bernie Sanders decided to withdraw a War Powers Resolution on ending US support for Saudi offensive efforts in the war in Yemen. Sanders was supposed to put the resolution to a vote, believing it would have passed. However, owing to pressure mounted against him from the White House, he decided to retreat. Instead, the progressive American senator claimed that he was informed that the Biden administration would “continue working” with his office on ending the conflict.
As revealed by The Intercept, which obtained the key talking points distributed by the White House against the resolution, the Biden administration communicated its position that such a resolution would be counterproductive and further exacerbate the crisis in Yemen. However, the ‘Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’ says that Sanders’ decision to withdraw the resolution “may embolden the many members of Washington’s foreign policy elite who would like to ensure that the president’s capability to unilaterally wage war remains unchallenged by Congress’s constitutional prerogative over matters of war and peace.”
The biggest problem here for the US government is that the War Powers Resolution essentially aims to force Biden to implement most of the policies that he himself outlined in February of 2021. Despite Biden having announced that the US was halting all “relevant arms sales” to the Saudi-led coalition – which has been at war with Yemen’s Ansarallah, known commonly as the Houthis, since 2015 – this policy position has never been put into practice.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden claimed that he would make longtime American ally Saudi Arabia a global “pariah.” Yet, when it began to sink in that the powerful oil-producing state was a necessary partner in the Middle East, a realization that came months into the West's sanctions campaign aimed at Russia, the Biden administration quickly decided to change its stance. In July, the president decided to go on a foreign visit to Saudi Arabia, while in the days prior he entered into discussions about beginning to supply the Saudis with offensive weapons again; the framing of this was a little disingenuous because the weapons sales freeze of February 2021 had effectively been ended by April of the same year anyway. Both of these moves came as a clear attempt to get Saudi Arabia to raise oil-production levels, a goal that failed as the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, refused to pander to the US president.
Since then, the US government approved a potential multibillion-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and in August the Biden administration granted the Saudi Crown Prince immunity from a civil lawsuit over his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden was reportedly humiliated earlier this year after allegedly bringing up the Khashoggi killing to the Crown Prince, who fired back by citing the Israeli killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, asking why Jamal Khashoggi mattered more. Notably, the US head of state failed a number of times to even pronounce Shireen Abu Akleh’s name correctly when delivering a speech beside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just days earlier and did not bring the killing up to Israeli representatives.
The White House insinuated, in its opposition to Senator Bernie Sanders’ resolution on Yemen, that it had a hand in the six-month long ceasefire between the two primary opposing sides in the war. The reality was that it was the United Nations that brokered the ceasefire, which ended on October 2. In the eyes of Ansarallah, the US government is the primary obstacle to peace in Yemen; Abd al-Wahhab al-Mahbashi, a senior member of Ansarallah, recently warned that “the presence of US troops in the Bab al-Mandab and off the coast of Yemen poses a serious threat to maritime navigation.” In fact, Ansarallah views the conflict as a war on behalf of the US, with Saudi Arabia acting as its proxy, a view held by millions in the region.
The day following Sanders’ withdrawal of his War Powers Resolution, two fuel shipments, carrying tons of diesel, were seized by the Saudi-led coalition and prevented from reaching Yemen. The blockade of Yemen is one of the major factors contributing to the resurgence of tensions – Ansarallah accuses Riyadh and Abu Dhabi of stealing the nation’s oil resources and depriving native Yemenis. In addition to this, when the US is clearly attempting to cozy up to Saudi Arabia, this signals to the leadership of Ansarallah that the Biden administration is favoring Riyadh in the conflict.
The Biden administration has so far proven ineffective at bringing the Saudis under its wing in the way it had hoped, indicating that its foreign policy tactics have proven ineffective at best. The reason for this failure likely comes down to the way the current government has dealt not only with Saudi Arabia, but with all the states of the Arabian Peninsula in addition to Iran. The US has shown that it cannot be trusted to keep its word, as was proven by its Iran nuclear deal blunder. More importantly, Saudi Arabia understands that, when it comes to security, Washington is not the most important player anymore. Instead of following the Biden administration into a dangerous anti-Iran coalition, the Saudis would be a lot smarter to engage diplomatically with Tehran, a step that would be especially helpful when it comes to regional security.
For Washington, meanwhile, an escalation in Yemen at this point would prove advantageous, for it could end up pushing Saudi Arabia closer to it, as the latter needs US help to maintain its war effort, although there is a chance that large-scale ballistic and cruise missile strikes against Saudi Arabia’s vital infrastructure could cause the Kingdom to go straight to the negotiating table. Regardless of how things go, it is clear that US influence in the Arabian Peninsula is rapidly declining and part of its legacy will be this brutal war that has cost upwards of 400,000 lives and that the Biden administration has refused to end.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.