When President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January, his administration will face a host of formidable challenges. Key among them is ending U.S. support for the military intervention in Yemen that is being led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In 2017 Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase arms from the United States totalling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years. The intended purchases include tanks, combat ships, missile defence systems, as well as radar, communications and cybersecurity technology
The U.N. Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen has repeatedly called for an end to arms transfers, which it says “help perpetuate the conflict.” This should include a halt to the Trump administration’s planned sale to the UAE of Reaper drones, F-35 aircraft, and other weapons, potentially worth a staggering $23 billion. It should also include halting the provision of spare parts and maintenance to military equipment already sold, intelligence sharing, and any other logistical support.
Since Saudi Arabia intervened in an already messy civil war in Yemen in 2015, the U.S. has provided logistical and intelligence support, as well as selling arms to Saudi Arabia. This has gone on despite Saudi Arabia’s extensive track record of bombing civilian targets in Yemen, including hospitals and schools. By aiding Saudi Arabia, the United States is complicit in the senseless killing of innocent people.
An end to U.S. support should also include an end to diplomatic measures that shield Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other coalition partners from scrutiny for their actions in Yemen. Instead, the new administration should recognize that no lasting peace is possible without a meaningful accounting for past crimes. Future diplomacy should ensure that respect for human rights is enshrined in any agreement. Moreover, efforts should ensure accountability for all parties to the conflict and redress for victims.
If the United States re-joins the U.N. Human Rights Council, it should do more to support accountability efforts through that body. In 2015 and 2016, the United States appeared to have undermined an effort at the Human Rights Council to establish an inquiry into abuses in Yemen. If Biden wants to prove that the United States has a genuine commitment to ending abuses in Yemen, he should start a new chapter in which the United States takes principled positions regarding human rights, accountability, and redress at the council.