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Thank you to President Joe Biden for announcing an end to the United States' six years of aiding and abetting the Saudi coalition's devastating military attacks on Yemen. On Feb. 4, President Biden said 'this war has to end” and called the suffering of the Yemeni people 'unendurable.” He said the U.S. would no longer support Saudi offensive military attacks on Yemen, and ordered a freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and a pause on arms sales to the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Since that announcement, his administration has rescinded the Trump administration's designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and has initiated diplomatic talks with many of the parties involved. .
The victims of this six-year war have been largely Yemeni civilians. Yemen, population 30 million, was already the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula. To be clear, no player in this conflict has a clean record. The Houthis have blocked access to humanitarian aid, enlisted child soldiers, and have terrorized civilians. But to also be clear, it was not the Houthis that started this armed conflict. In March, 2015, Saudi Arabia, with U.S. approval, intelligence, and logistic support, began dropping U.S. bombs, putting an end to the negotiations that were on the table. There has never been congressional approval of our military role against the Houthis, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Sadly, we, the U.S., bear a great responsibility for the Yemen catastrophe. This disaster is human-made, and the U.S. has been complicit from day one. A U.S. change in policy now cannot bring back the 100,000 Yemenis killed by U.S. bombs dropped by Saudi F-15's, nor can it bring back to life the hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, who have starved to death in the last six years. But the U.S. can and must do more now, because the situation is dire. Food and fuel in Yemen are scarce and terribly expensive. On Feb. 12, four U.N. organizations (Food & Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Food Program, and the World Health Organization) said that without an immediate increase in humanitarian aid, 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die of starvation yet this year.
The U.S. must do no more harm in Yemen. Veterans For Peace urges that all pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE be canceled, not just frozen or paused. We also urge that all U.S. troops and military contractors be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. The U.S. must work with the U.N. and other nations to increase humanitarian aid and work with all parties to secure a cease fire and peace negotiations.
Lastly, this welcome change in policy by the Biden administration should be looked upon as low hanging fruit - this unproductive, senseless use of U.S. power in the past six years has not increased our national security one iota. The reversal of U.S. policy in Yemen can be the opportunity for a true reset of our policy toward the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran. We must encourage the Biden Administration to seek peace in Yemen. To do so, go to the websites, whitehouse.gov and state.gov, scroll to the bottom where 'contact us” will allow you to send your message to the White House and the U.S. State Department. And our U.S. senators must be encouraged to support this change in policy.
John Jadryev is president of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 161 based in Iowa City.