The Houthis Are Apt to Win the War in Yemen. The U.S. Needs a Plan for What Happens When They Do

Since coming to office, the Biden administration has made promises to use diplomacy “to end the war in Yemen,” a conflict that pits the Iran-backed Houthi rebels against forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and a few other factions. Supporting the latter are Saudi Arabia and a coalition of pro-Western Arab states. Since a U.S. military intervention is unlikely, the war can end only with a Houthi victory. David Schenker considers the situation:

Riyadh doesn’t need any persuasion to want to end the war. In fact, in recent years, the Saudis have engaged in what are, by all accounts, good-faith talks on the future of Yemen, including with arch-foe Iran. The problem is the Houthis, who have proved consistently recalcitrant and are now playing for time as they make slow but steady progress. . . . The Houthi inclination toward a military rather than a negotiated solution is paying off. Two years into their military campaign in Marib—a strategic governorate named for its capital city—the rebels are on the verge of conquering both.

If they [succeed], the Houthis would essentially have won the war. For Riyadh, Washington, and the Yemeni people, this represents a worst-case scenario. Even if the war were to end, the humanitarian situation would remain critical, with two-thirds of Yemen’s 30 million citizens continuing to face famine. . . . Meanwhile, Iranian proxies will control another Arab country, and Saudi Arabia will remain vulnerable to missile and drone attacks from its southern neighbor.

Notwithstanding President Joe Biden’s obvious antipathy toward the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, the first order of business [in that event] will be to bolster the kingdom’s defensive capabilities. . . . Perhaps most importantly, to prevent Iran from fully completing its project of recreating a Hizballah-like entity on Saudi Arabia’s southern front once the Houthis gain control, the Biden administration will need to reinvigorate the 2015 UN arms embargo on Yemen.

Should the Biden administration fail, the risk is not just that more and increasingly advanced weaponry with Iranian components will be pointed from Yemen toward Riyadh. Concerned about Houthi and Iranian intentions, the Israelis twice this year deployed Patriot and Iron Dome missile-defense batteries against potential missiles and drones emanating from Yemen.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy