The Biden administration has taken two small steps toward ending the horrific US-backed mass atrocities in Yemen, with temporary holds placed on both a murderous sanctions measure and on arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the UAE pending review. Both items being reviewed are unconscionable decisions made by the previous administration.
"The Biden administration has imposed a temporary freeze on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it reviews billions of dollars in weapons transactions approved by former President Donald Trump," The Wall Street Journal reported today, adding that "U.S. officials said it isn’t unusual for a new administration to review arms sales approved by a predecessor, and that despite the pause, many of the transactions are likely to ultimately go forward."
This follows an earlier announcement of a one-month pause on the Trump administration's designation of Yemen's Houthis (Ansar Allah) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an unforgivably brutal measure which would cut off badly needed aid to an already starving populace and potentially kill millions. Like the arms sale hiatus, this measure could easily still move forward, and its temporary nature has provided insufficient assurance to companies that are backing away from trade with Yemen for fear of future US sanctions.
So it isn't much; a brief pause on an arms sale which appears to be standard procedure between administrations, and a brief pause on a sanctions measure that is still effectively starving people anyway.
But it's also not nothing.
"Wow. I've been organizing to end US arms sales to the Saudi/Emirati-led coalition in Yemen since their disastrous intervention began and we've never been this close to potentially permanently banning these sales," tweeted activist Kate Kizer in response to the latest news. "Let's pocket this victory and keep organizing!"
Wins are few and far between for those who support peace and justice in this world, but it does look like we might-maybe-possibly be approaching a tipping point in the general consensus on Yemen in America. Which is encouraging, because it's one of the easiest ways the US government could make the world a lot less horrible very quickly. The American Conservative's Daniel Larison explains:
Yemen is the most urgent and dire case, but it is also the one where changes in U.S. policy can have the most immediate positive effect for the civilian population. Biden should reverse the Houthi designation, resume the funding for aid that had been suspended last year, and end all U.S. backing for the coalition. There are already some promising signs that the administration intends to do all of these.
The main reason why Yemen has to take precedence over the other crises is that it is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and it threatens to become even more appalling in the coming weeks and months. It is in danger of becoming a full-blown famine that could claim millions of lives, and the people of Yemen have been put in this terrible position in large part by the actions of our government and the governments in the Saudi coalition. We are responsible for much of the harm that has been done to Yemen since 2015, and the Biden administration has a special obligation to end the disastrous policy that began under Obama. At the very least, the U.S. must stop driving Yemen deeper into famine, and ideally our government should be working to pull the country back out of the abyss into which our policies have pushed it. Reversing the Houthi designation is the most pressing action that Biden needs to take, but he also has to put a stop to U.S. involvement in the war as soon as possible.
So we've got a fighting chance at this, but we also can't rely on the DC swamp monsters to make the moral and ethical call every step of the way. We've got to keep making noise about this the whole way through, because the Biden administration reversing its decision on either the arms deals or the Yemen sanctions will translate directly into a mountain of human corpses.
Your voice matters. Speaking out makes a difference. Keep pointing at Yemen and forcefully demanding the US government end this terrible atrocity it helped start. Call your senator, call your representative, email the White House, use social media, do whatever you can to skillfully get the word out and make sure it's being listened to by those in power.
We really do have a chance to make the earth a better place here.
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