In the first few weeks of office, the Biden government rebuked Saudi Arabia and made concessions to Iran. How is it going so far?
On Monday, Israel accused Iran of being responsible for an explosion on an Israeli merchant ship. Over the weekend, Tehran turned down US and European requests to renegotiate the nuclear deal while the Iran-backed Houthi militia escalated its attacks on Saudi Arabia from Yemen with a rocket launch and drones.
The Biden team appears to have hoped that “recalibrating” US relations with Saudi Arabia, which fought the 2015 Houthi takeover in neighboring Yemen, would bring the war to a standstill there. The Houthis have other ideas. In early February, the State Department said it would reverse the group’s designation as a terrorist organization, but was forced to issue a statement days later that it was “deeply concerned by ongoing Houthi attacks”.
The attacks have continued and now the language of Foggy Bottom is more direct: “The United States strongly condemns the Houthi attacks on population centers in Saudi Arabia on Saturday February 27,” the state said on Sunday. “We urge the Houthis to stop these monstrous attacks.”
But why should the Houthis listen when the US has legitimized them for nothing by postponing sanctions and when they are broadcasting a strategy to accommodate their patrons in Tehran? Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is on the defensive as Washington downgrades the alliance and restricts arms sales.