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Middle East

It’s mad to go soft on Yemen’s brutal rebels

A displaced family in Yemen. Ahmad AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty

The limits of “talking softly” to Yemen’s brutal Houthi rebels should now be abundantly clear to President Biden, says Bobby Ghosh in Bloomberg. Wrongly believing he could create the conditions for peace, Biden overturned Donald Trump’s designation of the Iran-backed Houthis as terrorists and cancelled US backing for the Saudi-led forces fighting against them. He didn’t reckon with the Houthis’ fanatical determination to keep fighting and Iran’s eagerness to keep them “frothing at the mouth”. Both have grown stronger because of Biden’s soft-pedalling.

The rebels are stepping up missile and drone attacks on US allies, including Saudi oil infrastructure, and have escalated their campaign to take control of the country. And the Iranians, in turn, are boosting their support of the rebels. While Biden’s envoy to the region hops around the Gulf, talking to US allies about “the importance of peace”, Iranian officials openly brag about handing advanced drone and missile tech to the rebels. The “inconvenient fact” is that the Houthis have never shown the slightest interest in peace. Egged on by Iran, they have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to war. That leaves Tehran with a strong hand in nuclear negotiations – and Biden out of luck.  

Why it matters Biden is determined to pull the US out of its foreign adventures, leaving the locals to the tender mercies of the nearest villains. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are “ruthless extremist terrorists hell-bent on securing control”, says Neville Teller in The Jerusalem Post. They’ve long demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops. There, as in Yemen, “Biden is kindly obliging”. 

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