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Webinar :Biden’s Foreign Policy Promises in Yemen: First-Year Evaluation

The Washington Center for Yemeni Studies hosted a webinar discussion on ‘Biden’s Foreign Policy Promises in Yemen: First-Year Evaluation,’ via zoom with the honorable guest speakers: 

Gerald Feierstein: Senior Vice President and a distinguished Senior Fellow on US diplomacy at MEI.

Rasha Jarhum: Founder and Director of the Peace Track Initiative.

Dr. Anelle Sheline: A Research Fellow in the Middle East Program at the Quincy Institute.

Moderated by Hadil Al-Mowafak: Research Fellow at the Yemen Policy Center.

Jarhum expressed that the diplomatic path faces many challenges because it could not meet with all parties – with the Houthis being the most prominent rejecter, which is delaying the political peace process. “Unfortunately, we see an escalation of the conflict on all sides, bombings, human rights violations, especially against women, and sexual and gender-based violence used as a weapon of war, using many tactics to silence women. Most of them are in Houthi-controlled areas.” Jarhum touched on foreign policy and discussed the current consideration of the Biden administration regarding the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group, especially after the recent Houthi attacks on the UAE and the retaliation by the Arab League causing severe consequences on civil society and isolates them more. Jerhum suggested that this designation be selective and not a collective designation to spare the Yemeni people.

 On the other hand, Sheline spoke about Biden’s promises on Yemen at the beginning of February last year. “Biden announced giving priority to Yemen and focusing on diplomacy, but unfortunately, we did not witness many changes; For now, reconsideration of the re-designation as a terrorist group shows no difference from the Trump administration’s policy.” She iterated that the FTO designation is not a good idea because collective punishment is not the answer!

 In another context, Shellne said, “I think there is a lot of blame on the groups on the ground, but the blame should fall on actors such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The Biden administration continues to condemn the Houthis and support the Saudis. Negotiators need to take a stance that encourages other actors to come to the negotiating table.”

The former US ambassador, Feierstein, stated: “The Houthis refused to return to negotiations and misinterpreted Biden’s intentions. The Houthis did their best to make achievements on the battlefield that they could not yet achieve.” He stressed that the international community must return to principles. “There is no military path to victory on either side.” The necessity of clarifying to the Houthis that they do not have the choice of the army or the military solution; is the only advantage is the peace process.
Feierstein expressed, “We must admit that the language of the Houthi victory in the conflict in Yemen; is incorrect!” such as the Houthis’ exit from Shabwa and the anti-Houthi Yemeni government’s victories in Ma’rib. He said, “We should not want to see the Houthis succeed in Yemen from the US perspective. We need to change the conflict dynamics to make it clear that we support the Yemeni government and coalition efforts to prevent a Houthi victory in Ma’rib and elsewhere in the country.” These developments reinforce the Houthis’ acquiescence that their only option is negotiation, not a military solution. He stressed, “There should be no tolerance for a challenge facing the global economy, international maritime trade, and the global economic interests of China, Japan, Europe, and the United States.”

 And on designating Al-Houthi as a terrorist group, Feierstein said that the FTO designation is not a good idea. It threatens the millions of Yemeni civilians who depend on aid and private sector imports into Yemen. However, if there is a reconsideration, it should be conducted in the context of dialogue with humanitarian efforts to separate it from the designation, hoping that the classification will attract the attention of the Houthis. This broader classification includes a more significant number of players who will impact the Houthis without harming the Yemeni population. The ultimate goal is to get back to the negotiating table supporting Grundberg and UNSCR 2216.

About the UAE’s return to Yemeni lands after the hijacking of the Rawabi ship and the bombing by the Houthis, Jarhum said, “the UAE will participate in the war militarily, and diplomatically as the current President of the United Nations Security Council. The United States supports the UAE on both fronts, which leads to more significant war escalation.” Concerning piracy, a colossal mistake by the Houthis, the United Nations could intervene militarily in the coast of Somalia that could extend to Yemen. The Houthis’ penchant for terrorizing foreign terrorists will also give leeway to launch ferocious attacks on the Houthis, used to justify human rights abuses. “This is very dangerous,” according to her.

 In conclusion of the symposium: The speakers unanimously agreed that there is no consensus among the five permanent members. Negotiate, resolve and make a decision based on negotiations. It must have all the parties involved in the talks. The peace process must be inclusive, including women and groups not included in any future peace process, stop human rights abuses, and end the mandate of the prominent group. They urged the United States to continue documenting human rights violations in Yemen. The international community increasingly urged to find a solution that would be nothing less than a federal system of government. And not to neglect the issue of the south, provided that it does not veer aside. Focus on economic recovery. And that the priority for Yemenis is the economy and return to work again.

https://youtu.be/olv9cEC_MT0

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