A failed truce renewal in Yemen could further complicate US-Saudi relations
President Obama’s decision to call off a six-month-old Saudi military intervention in Yemen has left the Trump administration with a conundrum: Does it have to maintain its alliance with Riyadh or should the United States pursue an independent course?
In a move to defuse tensions with Riyadh, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that the United States will no longer be taking part in the Saudi offensive and will instead focus on supporting the “stabilization of the region.”
For Trump, the cancellation of the ground offensive in Yemen is a short-term measure, particularly because a failed ceasefire would heighten the risks with Yemen, one of the most important security flashpoints in the world.
“I think that we’re going to be stabilizing the situation,” Trump said when asked about the cancellation by Fox News Sunday. “I would say that we’re stabilizing the situation, and we will take whatever action will be necessary to accomplish that.”
While the move appears aimed at resolving the crisis, it will also further complicate relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The United States has relied on the Saudi-led coalition to militarily support its war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The kingdom has used the coalition as a force multiplier in its war in Yemen, allowing it to conduct a sustained air campaign with hundreds of airstrikes in an effort to defeat the Houthis. Some 800 coalition members are currently operating in the country.
The decision to pull out leaves the U.S. government and the Saudi coalition at odds over the war’s future course, specifically the role the United States wishes to play in ending it. The Trump administration has publicly sided with Saudi Arabia, warning that continued airstrikes in Yemen only prolong the war. While Trump called the current military operation the “Saudi Arabia Defense Operation,” he has privately said the “U.S. military is not involved in the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen and in no way intends to get involved in the foreseeable future.”
Trump’s decision to call a halt to operations in Yemen could have ramifications in the war’s aftermath. While an independent U.S. policy could end the conflict outright, it would be difficult to achieve and would likely require significant U.S. troop