The president is preparing for the US to take on a more active role in ending the protracted civil war in Yemen.
President Joe Biden will announce an end to United States support for offensive operations in Yemen, indicating that the new administration is planning a more active US role in efforts to end the country’s civil war.
“Today, he [Biden] will announce an end to American support for offensive operations in Yemen,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said during a news conference. Biden is set to deliver a wide-ranging foreign policy speech at the US Department of State on Thursday.
“He [Biden] will talk about the United States playing a more active and engaged role in diplomacy to bring an end to the conflict in Yemen and that will include the naming of a special envoy, which will happen today,” Sullivan said.
A source had earlier told Reuters that Biden was expected to name Timothy Lenderking, a veteran US diplomat, for the new post. Lenderking’s expected appointment was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Lenderking has extensive experience dealing with Yemen and the Gulf. He has been the deputy assistant secretary of state for Gulf affairs and served in the US embassy in Riyadh.
Yemen’s civil war pits the internationally recognised government against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, including large numbers of civilians, and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 on the side of the government and enjoyed the backing of the administration of former US President Donald Trump, with the war increasingly seen as a proxy conflict between the US and Iran.
But the mounting civilian death toll and growing humanitarian calamity – the United Nations (UN) estimates that 80 percent of Yemen’s 24 million people are in need – fuelled bipartisan demands for an end to US support for Riyadh.
Sullivan on Thursday reiterated Biden’s pledge, made during the 2020 presidential campaign, that he would curtail US support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, including endings arms agreements.
“It extends to the types of offensive operations that have perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis,” Sullivan said. “The types of examples of that include two arms sales of precision-guided munitions that the president has halted that were moving forward at the end of the last administration.”
Sullivan added that the US has spoken with senior officials in the UAE and Saudi Arabia as part of “a policy of no surprises with these types of actions so they understand that this is happening and they understand our reasoning and rationale for it.”
The UN has been struggling to broker peace talks between the government and the Houthis, an effort that Lenderking likely would be tasked with boosting.
The US last week approved all transactions involving Yemen’s Houthi movement for the next month as it carries out the review. But the UN is still hearing concerns that companies are planning to cancel or suspend business with Yemen despite the move.
The UN and aid groups have called the designation to be reversed, warning it would push Yemen into a large-scale famine.