On February 4th, President Biden said he was ending US support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in Yemen. Two months later, Saudi airstrikes continue to pound Yemen, the blockade is still being enforced, and the Biden administration refuses to disclose details about what support it is still providing to the Saudi-led coalition.
On February 25th, a group of House lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden asking him to clarify his Yemen policy. The lawmakers asked for a response by March 25th. According to a report from Al Jazeera, the White House never gave them an answer.
While Biden said he was ending support for “offensive” operations, the administration said it would support Riyadh militarily in situations that can be framed as “defensive.” It’s not clear if the US has been supporting the latest Saudi airstrikes, but considering Riyadh frames them as retaliation for Houthi drone and missile attacks inside the kingdom, it’s certainly possible.
Perhaps the cruelest aspect of the war is the blockade that is still being enforced. The frequency of Houthi cross-border attacks demonstrates that the embargo has done nothing to hurt the Houthis military power, and it is only starving civilians. Despite UN warnings that 400,000 Yemeni children will die in 2021 if conditions don’t change, President Biden refuses to pressure the Saudis into lifting the blockade. It’s also not clear if the US Navy is helping enforce the embargo, which it has in the past.
March 25th marked the sixth anniversary of the US-backed Saudi-UAE intervention in Yemen. The campaign has been a complete failure for the Saudis. The Houthis have made gains the entire time, and their ability to strike inside Saudi Arabia has increased each year.
Despite the realities on the ground, the Saudis recent ceasefire proposal offered nothing new for the Houthis, who have no incentive to stop fighting until a real offer is made. The Houthis have been clear that a key demand is a complete lifting of the blockade. But Saudi Arabia only offered to allow certain flights into Sanaa airport and some shipments into the port of Hodeidah, recycling an offer from 2020.
Until President Biden pressures Riyadh into making real concessions, the fighting in Yemen and the embargo will continue, and civilians will continue to starve to death.