Trying to End the War in Yemen, the U.S. Has Merely Exacerbated It

March 8 2021

In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi militia launched drones and missiles at Saudi oil fields yesterday, as part of their efforts to punish the Saudis and their pro-Western allies for supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The attack comes as Washington has withdrawn its support for the Saudis, even as the Houthis have been stepping up their assault on the city of Marib—the last major the government stronghold in the northern part of the country, and a center for the distribution of oil and gas to the rest. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The timing [of the present offensive] is crucial to understanding what is now happening. On February 4, President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. support for the Saudi war effort. . . . Two days later, the U.S. administration unconditionally revoked its designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist group. The Houthi offensive toward Marib began on the same day. The Houthis also commenced a series of drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The [Biden administration’s] desire for an end to war in Yemen is understandable. . . . Unfortunately, however, the U.S. has leverage over only one of the sides. The net result of the removal of support for the Saudi-led side has thus predictably not led to a move toward ending hostilities. Rather, it has resulted in increased aggression by the pro-Iranian side, which now perceives itself as facing an isolated and crumbling opponent rather than an adversary enjoying the backing of a major power.

This dynamic, familiar from the Obama period, is one in which allies are reined in and unilateral concessions are made to Tehran, in the hope that doing so will produce a change in behavior on Iran’s part. [But] the offensive in Yemen, combined with the flurry of rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq by Iran-linked militias, would suggest that as of now, [this strategy is] producing increased Iranian aggression rather than its intended opposite.

Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, 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