United States President Joe Biden signed a flurry of executive orders on his first day in office to reverse some of his predecessor’s harmful policies, including a reversal of Trump’s Muslim travel ban, thus putting a spring in the step of those longing for a new dawn in America.
For two centuries, the US has presented itself as a refuge for the world’s “huddled masses yearning to be free,” while promising to lead the international community away from want and fear, a promise undermined, however, by its reckless and belligerent efforts to defeat Communism in the late 20th century and violent Islamic extremism in the current.
In pursuit of the latter objective, the US has started wars and supported wars in the Middle East, while also flooding the region with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of guns, artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles, fighter jets, and armed drones, which have exacerbated and protracted bloody conflicts, including the Saudi-UAE led war in Yemen.
Biden has promised to right these wrongs by ending US military support for the Saudi-UAE coalition and unconditional arm transfers to allies throughout the region. He has a clear opportunity to fulfill these commitments with immediate effect, given a US$500 million weapons package, meant for Saudi Arabia, sits before Congress, a deal rammed through by Trump in the final month of his presidency.
According to the New York Times, the Biden administration is currently reviewing the arms sales deals with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, a move that was described as routine for presidential transitions by a State Department official. However, while arms transfers to Saudi Arabia would be paused during the review, it does not include a freeze on sales to the UAE, the report explains.
Without US surveillance technologies, Saudi-UAE warplanes would essentially be flying blind.
Halting the shipment of arms and ending US logistical support will most likely bring about a prompt ending to the six-year-long war because without US surveillance technologies, Saudi-UAE warplanes would essentially be flying blind and unlikely to hit a football field, let alone a targeted building nestled among other buildings.
During the presidential election campaign, Biden called Saudi Arabia a global “pariah” and said he would “reassess” the US relationship with the Kingdom, specifically in regard to its atrocious human rights record, promising the US will no longer “check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.”
Biden was Vice President to President Barack Obama when he gave the Saudi-UAE coalition a green light to attack Houthi forces in March 2015, after they and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh took over the country’s capital, Sanaa, six months earlier.
The fighting has produced the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, leaving a quarter of a million dead, 20 million dependent on food and medical aid, alongside millions more who have been ravaged by disease and famine, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Office.
“Yemenis were initially hopeful the Arab coalition would end the Houthi coup in 2015, but today they feel that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are part of the problem, not the solution,” Yemeni journalist Mohammed al-Rumim told me last year. But when I spoke to him two weeks ago he said that local attitudes towards the UAE have especially hardened.
“[The] UAE is no friend of Yemen. It’s interested only in colonization. It controls all the seaports and oil wells and is stealing from the people of Yemen,” al-Rumim said.
“[The] UAE is no friend of Yemen. It’s interested only in colonization. It controls all the seaports and oil wells and is stealing from the people of Yemen.”
The Biden administration can finally bring peace to the Yemeni people by not only ending its military support for the Saudi-UAE coalition but also by pressuring the Houthis and their backer Iran to end their coup and return to conditions agreed upon by the Yemenis at the National Dialogue Conference, which “represents a summary of the hopes and aspirations of the great Yemeni people since the dawn of their struggle for freedom and a good-life, and salvation from tyranny and colonialism.”
Biden has also promised accountability for those responsible for the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was hacked to death by Saudi security forces at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The new president has the vocal support of Democratic Party lawmakers to investigate the Saudi government’s role in the murder, having accused the Trump administration of helping cover up the crime.
“Donald Trump buried the truth to protect authoritarians and murderers in Saudi Arabia,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Washington Post in December. “The Biden team has a real opportunity to break from the lawlessness and coverups of the Trump administration.”
“The Biden team has a real opportunity to break from the lawlessness and coverups of the Trump administration.”
Progressive members of the Democratic caucus have become especially critical of the US relationship with Arab Gulf regimes, with many calling for decoupling and resumption of the Iran denuclearization deal, a prospect that instills great anxiety within Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. And with the Biden administration’s arms sale review underway, some congressional Democrats are pushing for the deals to be canceled altogether.
“The weapons we sold to Saudi Arabia and [the] UAE have been used to kill schoolchildren, transferred to extremist militias, and fueled a dangerous arms race in the Middle East. This is the right move,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT) tweeted in light of the assessment. “The time is now to reset our relationships with Gulf allies.”
Biden also has the backing of the American people, with a YouGov poll showing a clear majority oppose the US government’s support for the ongoing war, with only 13 percent saying they want the White House and Congress to maintain or increase arm sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“More bombs in Yemen won’t help the millions struggling with starvation, poverty and disease,” writes Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Laureate recipient from Yemen. “Rather than more bloodshed, Yemen needs sovereignty and independence to resolve these issues of, for and by Yemenis. This is possible for Yemen only if the United States, along with the international community, stops arming this dangerous war.”
Biden must now follow through on his promises.