In a move that endears his administration even more to the Iranian Islamist regime, President Biden announced Thursday the United States was cutting off support the Saudi Arabian military effort against the Houthis, an Iranian proxy whose five-year civil war against the government in Yemen has created a humanitarian crisis. The move fulfills a campaign promise but its ramifications will be felt outside of the US, and perhaps even in Israel.
Houthis: Proxy Serving Iranian Expansionism
The civil war in Yemen, bordering Saudi Arabia on the south, began in late 2014 when the Shia Houthis, an Iranian proxy, initiated a civil war challenging the government by waging an armed takeover of the capital city of Sanaa, successfully expanding their control to the northern half of the country which is predominantly Sunni. Saudi Arabi intervened, using their air force to support the government forces. The Houthi takeover is generally viewed as a critical part of Iran’s regional expansionism and support of terrorism. Yemen controls the critical Strait of Hormuz through which all tankers carrying oil from the Gulf States must pass. The war and widespread famine have resulted in 100,000 deaths.
Houthis: Anti-Israel, Anti-America Terrorists
The Biden administration will also be lifting the State Department’s classification of the Houthis as a terrorist organization which it earned by attacking civilians and kidnapping US citizens. This designation was put in place by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his final days in the position.
“The designation did not impact the Houthis in any practical way, but it stopped food and other critical aid from being delivered inside Yemen and would have prevented effective political negotiation,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement.
In 2003, the Houthis’ slogan “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam”, became the group’s trademark. The group has been accused of oppressing and targeting other religions, in particular, the dwindling Jewish population and people of the Bahai faith. Houthis have been accused of violations of international humanitarian law such as using child soldiers, shelling civilian areas, forced evacuations, and executions
According to a secret United Nations document, North Korea has also aided the Houthis by selling weapons.
Saudi Arabia: US Ally
It is unclear how Biden’s decision affects the 1951 Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement signed with Saudi Arabia.
Civilian targets in Saudi Arabia have been targeted by Houthi drone and missile attacks. In 2019, Iranian-manufactured drones launched from Yemen hit an oil facility in eastern Saudi Arabia, causing massive destruction that cut Saudi Arabia’s oil production by about half – representing about 5% of global oil production. US officials rejected the Houthis’ claims of responsibility and instead said that Iran was responsible for the attacks.
With US support, Saudi Arabia is also battling Yemen-based al Qaeda forces in the region. The announcement by the Biden administration assured that the ban on sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia would not affect these essential operations.
Biden: Working to Dismantle Peace in the Middle East
Though his moves regarding Yemen are widely lauded as an attempt to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, seen in a broader context of the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda, the arms freeze against Saudi Arabia is one more move that serves the Iranian regime’s agenda. In addition to freezing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Biden froze arms sales to the United Arab Emirates. He also reinstated tariffs on UAE imports of steel and aluminum into the US. Both the arms sales and the tariffs were part of the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel that President Trump brokered. Negating both seems to be a general move to roll back or adversely affect the peace agreements.
According to reports, Biden was negotiating with Iran to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal, negotiated by President Obama and signed in 2015, is considered an existential threat by the government of Israel as it allows for an unmitigated Iranian nuclear weapons program beginning in less than four years. According to a recent statement by Blinken, Iran is currently only a few months away from having enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon. President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018.
Biden has also announced that he will restore US relations with the Palestinians despite their rejection of a negotiated peace with Israel. All of Biden’s cabinet appointees advocate the “two-state solution” which would create an independent “Palestinian” entity inside the borders of Israel, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and with its capital in Jerusalem.