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Peace is Not Possible Without the Houthis

Harry Clennon

Posted on June 26, 2021 19:44

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The Biden administration needs to be more realistic about the fact that the Houthi rebels in Yemen must be part of any solution to the ongoing civil war.

The ongoing civil war in Yemen, which started in 2014, is the worst humanitarian crisis of the past decade. Over 200,000 Yemeni lives–many of them civilian–have been claimed by war, famine, and disease. 


Today, the war is locked in a stalemate, dimming the prospects for peace. Achieving a durable peace settlement is possible, but it cannot come about unless the Houthi rebels, the primary anti-government faction in the conflict, are brought into the process in a meaningful way.


President Joe Biden and his administration find themselves at a critical junction. The fact of the matter is that the war is unwinnable for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia on behalf of Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The United States’ decades-long alliance with Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia’s air assaults on Yemen (which frequently take civilian lives in violation of international human rights law) have earned both nations an uncompromising enemy in the Houthis, who are also increasingly tied diplomatically to Iran.


The Houthis are not a virtuous faction in the war–they, too, have violated human rights. Practically speaking, however, the Houthis have become a hardened fighting force over two decades of on-and-off conflict with the internationally recognized government of Yemen. 


They have access to drones and short-range ballistic missiles and have used them to strike Saudi Arabia. While the internationally recognized government of Yemen resides in exile, the Houthis control vast swathes of territory. The Houthis cannot win the war, per se, because they will never be recognized as the legitimate government of Yemen, but they have proven resilient against the efforts of their adversaries.


While the Biden administration declared an end to US support for “offensive operations” by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Washington continues to support “defensive operations,” which include logistical support and aircraft refueling. Just days ago, the United States shut down the website of Masirah TV, a news outlet run by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia also continues to blockade the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah.

In addition, the Saudi government has facilitated the establishment of a power-sharing cabinet composed of members of the internationally recognized government and separatists from Yemen’s southern region, a hardening of battle lines between the Houthis and those factions supported by the Saudi-led coalition.


Failure to entice the Houthis into the peace process will only ensure that the protracted conflict continues. President Biden must put more pressure on Saudi Arabia to reduce its military activities, and come to terms with the fact that the Houthis will need to play a role in whatever government follows a peace settlement.

Progress towards ending the war should also become more of a priority at the United States’ delegation to the United Nations, which is striving to mediate between the warring factions, but needs support from a power with leverage over the actors in the conflict. Ending the war in Yemen will not be easy, but after so much death and strife it is more important than ever.

Harry Clennon

Posted on June 26, 2021 19:44

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Source: Al Jazeera
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The Trump administration has begun cooperating with Biden's team, despite the president refusing to concede the race.

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