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Americans: On March 1st, Tell Your Representatives to End US Support for Saudi Crimes Against Yemen

by Samuel B. Parker

A humanitarian crisis is ravaging Yemen and, despite numerous promises, U.S. politicians — including President Biden — have done nothing to stop it. In fact, not only have U.S. policies failed to address the unfolding disaster, but they have actually enabled and worsened it.

Civil war has wracked the country since 2014, when Houthi rebels launched an offensive in which they seized control of the capital city of Sanaa, ousted Yemeni officials, and installed a new government to replace one that had been led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Since then, the struggle to rule Yemen has been a violent contest between members of the Houthi insurgency and remaining elements of the previous Yemeni government.

Shortly after the conflict began, a coalition organized and directed by Saudi Arabia began to intervene on behalf of the official government of Yemen. For almost eight years, the coalition has attempted to undermine the Houthi regime through airstrikes as well as a blockade on Yemeni ports. Although direct fighting has diminished over the last year, the blockade remains.

The consequences have been devastating. By June of last year, the Saudi air campaign in Yemen had killed almost 9,000 civilians: an estimate that is considered to be “conservative.” At the same time, the siege of Yemeni sea- and airports has caused a severe and “unprecedented” famine, in which more than 17 million Yemeni men, women, and children do not have reliable and consistent access to food. As is often — maybe always — the case, the primary victims of the armed struggle have been innocent noncombatants.

Saudi military action in Yemen has been criminal by any rational, coherent, and moral standard. Many Saudi attacks have deliberately targeted civilian structures and population centers. Others, while ostensibly conducted against legitimate military targets, have been carried out with little to no regard for the high risks of civilian casualties. These assaults, along with the blockade that has prevented food from reaching millions of Yemeni tables, are decisive evidence that the salient Saudi strategy in Yemen is to torture and murder civilians.

And yet, the U.S. government has been quick and eager to implicate itself in these atrocities. In the five years between 2015 and 2020, the United States has provided more than $64 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, and has likely trained some of the very Saudi pilots who execute its lethal airstrikes.

How were those weapons used? Unfortunately, nobody knows. That is because both the Pentagon and the Department of State neglected to keep track of whether U.S. arms were involved in the Saudi intervention in Yemen, making it very possible — arguably likely — that the United States provided direct support of Saudi war crimes.

As the Yemeni people are bombarded from the air and starve on the ground, U.S. politicians offer their empathy and pledge their assistance. Then they do absolutely nothing.

In some of his first remarks on foreign policy after he was elected, President Biden said “we’re… stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen… [and] we are ending all American support for offensive operations… including relevant arms sales.”

By the letter of the law, he has honored that commitment. The $650 million in air-to-air missiles that were sold to Saudi Arabia in 2021 — a sale approved by President Biden — were described as “means to defend ,” Saudi skies from Houthi air attacks.

But these actions are nowhere close to good enough. Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States has continued to “enable the blockade… by servicing Saudi fighter jets, assisting [the coalition] with military defense operations, and providing military and diplomatic support to [the coalition].