Opinion: Ending arms sales to Yemen is a good first step

President Joe Biden announced in his first foreign policy address that he would be ending “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.” There is no question that the Saudi war against the Yemeni people has been a huge humanitarian disaster. Tens of thousands of Yemeni people have died, including more than 12,000 civilians. All the while, the U.S. has been supplying and repairing many of the weapons used by the Saudi’s in this war and training Saudi’s who are using them. This is a war that has been labeled by some as a genocide. This war was originally supported by former President Obama’s administration and the support was continued under former President Trump. Former Vice President Biden, and then-Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (now secretary of state), helped formulate the support plan for the war during the Obama administration. I was relieved to hear that Biden and Blinken are reversing course on this now, but it is important to remember that they are at least partially complicit or responsible for this humanitarian disaster in the first place.

Biden however, added a caveat to this end of support for Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.” The U.S. will not support Saudi offensive actions against Yemen, but it will help defend Saudi Arabia from others, particularly Iran. Finally, Blinken appointed Tim Lenderking as a special envoy to work with the United Nations Envoy involved in seeking a diplomatic end to the conflict and supplying humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people. 

While I think it is significant for the U.S. to end its arms sales and support for offensive operations against Yemen, it should be a first step and not the only action taken. Not actively supporting a genocide is not the same thing as opposing it. By continuing to provide defensive support to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is still permitting the Saudis to continue this war. They just cannot count on U.S. support. Make no mistake, the Saudi government is an authoritarian one that does not respect the rights of all its citizens and is actively abusing the rights of others. If the U.S. is as committed to democracy and human rights as it says it is, it has no business protecting the Saudi government. I am glad that the U.S. will no longer support the war in Yemen, but now it needs to actively oppose it. Thousands of innocent lives are on the line.

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