The conflict in Yemen has killed nearly a quarter of a million people; vicious deaths, all made possible by the United States. President Joe Biden has promised to end US involvement in this conflict, but so far he has not delivered on that promise. The conflict between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen began in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates created a coalition against the Houthi armed forces which took control of the capital of Yemen, Sanaa.
Early in the conflict, the United States provided weapons, logistics and intelligence support to the Saudi-UAE-led coalition. Several consecutive US administrations have pursued this, but Biden has promised not to; as he ran for office, he said America must “end American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen”. However, the recent escalation of the crisis makes it difficult to keep this promise. In January, Houthi forces launched a missile and drone attack on Abu Dhabi, in response to UAE-backed Yemeni forces pushing the Houthis out of their claimed territory.
The attack left three dead and six injured. In retaliation, the coalition launched airstrikes across Yemen, making January one of the bloodiest months of the war according to the United Nations. In response to this, the Biden administration doubled down on its support for the coalition. Human Rights Watch and other Yemeni and international groups have called on the United States and its allies to end arms sales to the coalition because it directly enables human rights abuses. This includes the death of almost a quarter of a million people according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and leaves more than half of the population facing food insecurity.
The United States directly facilitated and aided the war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition and the United Arab Emirates during the conflict in Yemen. By providing them with intelligence, logistics and weapons, the coalition has the means to fight against Houthi forces, putting the lives of millions of Yemenis at risk. The United States has a law that prohibits the sale of arms to abusive governments, but by selling arms and providing military support to the Saudi and Emirati coalition, the United States has chosen to ignore this law, while by allowing possible war crimes during the conflict.
There are long-standing concerns about the lack of accountability on all sides, which intensified in October when the UN Human Rights Council came under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. . They have come under pressure to end the mandate of the United Nations Panel of Eminent Experts on Yemen, which is the only independent international body documenting serious human rights violations.
The Biden administration’s overall response lacks accountability. Joe Biden saying he wanted to end US support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a speech last year was just a publicity stunt with no real change in foreign policy. The United States has allowed the conflict to continue and even escalate, as we saw in January. The Biden administration is considering rebranding Houthi forces as a “foreign terrorist organization,” which human rights groups oppose because it threatens the humanitarian aid millions of Yemenis depend on to survive.
There has been a general failure to address the human rights abuses that occurred during the conflict in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has only increased its airstrikes and tightened its blockade, which the United Nations World Food Program announced was restricting access to humanitarian aid and causing one of the worst famines in the world. modern history. Yemenis are collateral damage in a conflict between evil parties; it’s time to put their livelihoods first.
The Biden administration must prioritize human rights and choose accountability in Yemen. The blood of a quarter of a million people is on America’s hands because of the direct support previous and current administrations have given to the UAE-Saudi-led coalition. The impact goes beyond the deaths the conflict has caused; millions of Yemenis face food insecurity and other humanitarian crises daily due to reckless attacks.
It’s not too late for the Biden administration to reverse its actions and choose to stand on the right side of history. The United States and its allies should immediately cease arms sales to the coalition while placing humanitarian assistance to Yemenis at the top of the priority list. If Biden is unwilling to act, the US Congress should step in. Specifically, Congress should let the administration know that it should not designate the Houthis a “terrorist” group because of the potential effects this may have on civilian aid. .
Congress is also expected to pass a war powers resolution, which would end US support for the Saudi-UAE-led coalition. The United States must try to persuade Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to lift their blockade and stop airstrikes targeting civilians. In addition, the government should call on allies to restore a UN accountability mechanism that can hold all parties in Yemen accountable for violations of international law; this would lead to a decrease in human rights violations and possible war crimes.
There should also be an investigation into parties that have committed human rights abuses and war crimes, with dire consequences for anyone found guilty. A huge increase in the United States’ share of funding for humanitarian assistance to Yemenis must be enacted immediately, with doctors and professionals sent to the region for concrete assistance to end the prolonged suffering of Yemenis. These bold and immediate steps will help the United States recognize the war in Yemen for what it is: a conflict in which all sides are committing grave violations and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.