Yemen Represents Yet Another Foreign Policy Failure for Biden

“God is great, death to the U.S., death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” This is the slogan adopted by a group of Iranian-backed rebels a world away in the war-torn country of Yemen. The sentiment clearly represented in the group’s slogan, along with a long record of violence perpetrated against Yemeni activists and journalists earned the Houthi Muslims their designation as a terrorist organization by the Trump administration. Since 2014, Human Rights Watch has kept record of “dozens of cases of the Houthis carrying out arbitrary and abusive detention, as well as enforced disappearances.” Houthi forces are also known for the indiscriminate launching of rockets into heavily populated cities and conscription of children for military service. 

The State Department’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization effectively prevented funds and material resources from reaching Iranian-backed Houthi forces. However, within a month of taking office, the Biden administration removed Houthis from the foreign terrorist organization list, citing dire humanitarian concerns and the role of U.S. policies in hindering the delivery of needed aid to beleaguered Yemeni civilians. In a State Department press release, Secretary of State Antony Blinken maintained a “strong belief that there is no military solution to this conflict.” The move came as President Biden also announced an end to its support of Saudi Arabia in their fight against the Houthis, to include related arms sales.

Herein lies the context for a notable news story that received little coverage by mainstream media last week. The Washington Free Beacon reported on a Houthi raid of the U.S. embassy in Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa on Wednesday, just days after Houthi rebels kidnapped three Yemeni nationals employed by the U.S. embassy. Just three weeks prior, Houthis also detained 22 embassy employees, most of whom, the State Department stated, have since been released. Of the kidnapped Yemeni nationals, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “we are extremely concerned by reports of detentions of some of our local Yemeni employees in Sanaa, and we call for their immediate release,” reiterating U.S. commitment “to ensuring the safety of those who serve the U.S. Government overseas.”

If the United States’ handling of withdrawal from Afghanistan and its abandonment of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies is any indication, it’s unlikely that mere diplomacy will render results. Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw tweeted his criticism of Biden’s most recent embarrassment: “Tehran in 1979, Benghazi in 2012, Kabul and now Sanaa in 2021. It’s almost like our enemies sense weakness when certain people hold office.”

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Aly is a military spouse and mom to two. She has a special interest in international security and foreign affairs, having lived overseas, worked with Sister Cities International and served as a commissioning editor for an international relations website. Aly holds a Masters in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University and currently resides in Tennessee.
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