Last week, I wrote about the Biden administration’s attempt to appease Iran by removing the terrorist designation from the Houthis, a bloodthirsty proxy of the mullahs in Yemen. Biden also announced that “we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”
How have the Houthis responded? By stepping up their offense, of course, and by increasing their level of terrorism. On Saturday, they launched a drone attack on civilians. On Sunday, they followed up with four more.
How has the Biden administration responded? With this lame statement:
The United States urges the Houthis to halt their advance on Marib and cease all military operations and turn to negotiations. The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen. . . .
If the Houthis are serious about a negotiated political solution, they must cease all military advances and refrain from other destabilizing and potentially lethal actions, including cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia. They must commit to constructively participate in the UN-led political process and engage seriously in the diplomatic effort led by U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking. The time to end this conflict is now. There is no military solution.
One could be forgiven for thinking this is a parody of Obama administration mush. Unfortunately, it’s no parody.
“The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen.” No kidding. It’s the action of terrorists, which is why the Trump administration designated the Houthis as such.
“If the Houthis are serious about a negotiated political solution, they must cease all military advances.” But what if the Houthis are serious about winning? And what if they are convinced that Biden will let them win? What “must” they do then? That which they are doing now.
“There is no military solution.” That’s what Obama repeatedly told Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian butcher and his masters in Iran and Russia begged to differ. They were right. They won.
If I were a Houthi leader, I might conclude “I am winning. The Americans want out. They’ve walked away from the Saudis and reversed the terrorism designation even though my own behavior has not changed. Why negotiate?” If that is right, the Biden administration ought to be thinking hard about ways to change the incentive structure it has backed into.
But I question whether the Biden administration “backed into” its current policy. It’s at least as likely that Biden is prepared to hand Yemen over to Iran’s proxy as a first step in trying to appease the mullahs.