Biden, no weapons for the Saudis. War in Yemen 'must end'

The new US president declares that the war in the Arab state "must end" and suspends support for Riyadh. However, aid remains in the defence of sovereignty and territorial integrity from external attacks. Bin Salman records the US change of course and relaunches the "global political solution". Al-Qaeda leader in the Arabian Peninsula arrested in Yemen.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The new US president Joe Biden is redrawing alliances and strategies in the Middle East and, in relation to the war in Yemen, he declares in no uncertain terms that "it must end".

At the same time, he announced the blocking of Washington's support for the Saudi-led Arab coalition, fighting the Houthi rebels (close to Iran) and responsible for civilian casualties (including children), combined with severe restrictions on the sale of weapons.

 "As a guarantee of our commitment - said the tenant of the White House - we are putting an end to any kind of American support for military operations in the context of the war in Yemen, including the fundamental issue of arms sales".

Biden has recently appointed long-time expert Timothy Lenderking as special envoy to Yemen, in an attempt to strengthen diplomacy in the region and "end" a war "that has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe”.

This decision is in stark opposition to the policies of the Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who in the perspective of maximum containment towards Iran had tolerated massacres and violence of civilians in the Arab country.

At the same time, the Democratic president recalled that Saudi Arabia is at risk of "missile attacks, drones, raids and many other threats" by the militias supported by Iran on various fronts. For this, he concluded, "we will continue our support" to Riyadh "and we will help [the nation] to defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity and its people".

The war in Yemen began in 2014 as an internal conflict between pro-Saudi government and Shiite Houthi rebels close to Iran. It degenerated in March 2015 with the intervention of the Arab coalition led by Riyadh and has registered over 10 thousand dead and 55 thousand injured. Independent bodies set the toll (between January 2016 and the end of July 2018) at about 57 thousand deaths.

For the UN the conflict has triggered "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world", about 24 million Yemenis (80% of the population) urgently need humanitarian assistance.  The coronavirus pandemic has had even more devastating impact with a healthcare system that has collapsed. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation and experts say children will suffer the consequences for the next 20 years.

Commenting on the words of the US president, the Saudi leader – and primary sponsor of the conflict - Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) responded with openness to "a global political solution" in Yemen. In a note released this morning by news agencies, the crown prince said he was "happy that the United States emphasizes the importance of diplomatic efforts".

Riyadh, the text continues, welcomes Biden's "commitment" to "cooperate with the kingdom to defend its sovereignty" and to reject "threats".

Finally, in October - but the news only emerged in these hours - the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa) Khalid Batarfi, better known by the nom de guerre of Abou Miqdad el-Kindi, was captured in Yemen. He was arrested during an operation in Gheïda, in the province of Mahra, in which Deputy Commander Saad Atef el-Aoulaqi was killed. At the moment there are no further details on who carried out the operation and where is the jihadist leader and head of Aqpa, one of the most dangerous formation that has claimed numerous attacks also in Europe, including that on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in the January 2015.