On April 2, a small ray of hope emerged from Yemen: a sixty-day ceasefire brokered by the United Nations, beginning on the first day of Ramadan. It is the first real ceasefire in the six-year war between Yemen’s coalition government and Houthi rebels, which has become a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since the ceasefire took effect, Yemen has been allowed to receive much-needed fuel shipments, and there have been some flights to and from Sana’a’s airport, but the Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports continues. The peace remains fragile and limited.
Nearly four hundred thousand Yemenis have died in the conflict, 60 percent of them from hunger, illness, or unsafe drinking water, and many have been unable to access basic necessities because of the Saudi blockade. More than 23 million people, amounting to three-quarters of the country’s population, are in need of aid. Meanwhile, the price of grain is climbing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Too many Americans remain unaware of our own country’s role in creating this humanitarian catastrophe. The United States supplies a significant amount of the aircraft Saudi Arabia uses in Yemen. Over a year ago, President Joe Biden vowed to reduce American involvement in the war, announcing that the United States would end “offensive operations” in Yemen and halt “relevant” arms sales to Saudi Arabia. At the time, observers were skeptical. Saudi Arabia claims it has acted entirely defensively in Yemen, so the United States has continued providing military aid and intelligence to the Saudis without violating Biden’s vague promise.