The Biden administration, on behalf of the U.S., must commit to doing no more harm in Yemen

 President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Thank you to President 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 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 Since that announcement, his administration has rescinded the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and has initiated diplomatic talks with many of the parties involved. All of these changes are welcome, yet they highlight the awful tragedy of the past six years and also the desperate need for more immediate progress.

The victims of this six-year war have been largely Yemeni civilians. Yemen, with a population of 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 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.

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Sadly, we, the U.S., bear a great responsibility for the catastrophe in Yemen. There are humanitarian disasters all over the world and the U.S. can’t cure them all. But 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-15s, 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 present situation is dire. Food and fuel in Yemen are scarce and terribly expensive. On Feb. 12, four U.N. organizations (Food & Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the 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 donor nations to increase humanitarian aid and then work inclusively 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 and, scroll to the bottom, where a “contact us” page 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 welcome change in policy.

John Jadryev lives in Iowa City and is the president of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 161.



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