The Biden administration is cutting back on military deployments to the Middle East while helping Saudi Arabia with defense, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The move is counter to what Biden vowed during his presidential campaign – he promised to treat Saudi Arabia like a “pariah” state and vowed to end his predecessor’s “dangerous blank check” to the country and hold Riyadh responsible for human rights abuses – and comes as Yemen’s Houthis have been battling a six-year Saudi-led military offensive and have launched numerous missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi oil installations, military sites and airports.
The U.S. as part of its realignment is diverting an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems to military needs in other parts of the world.
The Saudis are improving their efforts to defend themselves, according to the Journal.
“The Saudis have been pretty effective at knocking this stuff down. They are doing better and better,” a senior U.S. official said.
“The bottom line is that the Houthis need to know that we are standing with the Saudis and we will continue to support their right to self-defense,” another U.S. official said.
The Houthis rejected a ceasefire proposal made by Riyadh last month, according to news reports, and the conflict has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“We expected that Saudi Arabia would announce an end to the blockade of ports and airports and an initiative to allow in 14 ships that are held by the coalition,” Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters.
A “humanitarian right” should not be used as a pressure tool, he said.
The war has killed more than 100,000 people, many of them civilians, according to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a database that tracks violence in Yemen.
Biden on Feb. 4 announced he would end American support for Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led “offensive operations” in Yemen and prioritize diplomatic solutions to the conflict. He also announced support for a ceasefire and an effort to restart peace talks.
“This war has to end,” Biden said. “And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”
Former President Donald Trump vetoed resolutions blocking certain arms sales and directing the U.S. to end its role in the hostilities.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched their intervention in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis, an Iranian-backed rebel group, took over the capital and forced out Yemen’s internationally backed president.
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