Washington, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden plans to end US support for offensive operations in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition that has been waging war on the impoverished nation for nearly six years, the White House national security adviser said Thursday.
The president will announce the change later Thursday in his first major speech on foreign policy since taking office Jan. 20, Jake Sullivan told reporters.
The decision entails the permanent suspension of sales of precision-guided ordnance to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that had been approved by the Trump administration, he said.
But the new policy “does not extend to actions against AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), which are actions we undertake in service of protecting the homeland and protecting American interests in the region and allies and partners,” the national security adviser said.
What the United States will no longer back are the “types of offensive operations that have perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis,” Sullivan said.
Nearly a quarter of a million lives have been lost in the conflict, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“The war had already caused an estimated 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure,” the OCHA said in December.
US involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which began under President Barack Obama, grew increasingly unpopular with lawmakers during the tenure of Donald Trump, who in April 2019 vetoed a joint resolution of the House of Representatives and Senate “to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”
Along with curtailing US military participation, Biden intends for Washington to play “a more active and engaged role in the diplomacy to bring an end to conflict in Yemen and that will include the naming of a special envoy,” Sullivan said.
Media outlets reported that Biden will name Timothy Lenderking, a career diplomat with broad experience in the Middle East, as special envoy for Yemen.
The national security adviser said that the US had already informed Saudi Arabia and the UAE about the new policy.
“We have consulted with them. We are pursuing a policy of no surprises when it comes to these types of actions so they understand that this is happening and they understand our reasoning and rationale for it,” he said.
Houthi rebels from northwestern Yemen rose up in late 2014 against President Abdo Rabu Mansur Hadi, who ran opposed in 2012 in an election that was boycotted by the Houthis and by secessionists in the southern part of the country.
In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition intervened in a bid to restore Hadi to power.
While tens of thousands of Yemenis have died in airstrikes, a substantial portion of the fatalities are attributable to shortages of food and other necessities as a result of a blockade imposed by the Saudis and their allies.
The UN says that 80 percent of Yemen’s 29 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. EFE