Yemen Houthi Leader Extends Olive Branch; Offers Ceasefire If Saudis Agree

The leader of the Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Yemen said on Sunday that he is ready to institute a ceasefire, as long as the Saudi-backed government coalition is willing to do the same.

"We are willing to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts to reach a just and honorable peace if they really want peace for the Yemeni people," said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen's Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee. According to CNN, al-Houthi said that his forces would stop launching missiles and drone attacks on "US-Saudi aggression countries and their allies in Yemen." 

The United States has backed the Saudi-led coalition in their efforts to eradicate Houthis from the Gulf country. 

Extending an olive branch, al-Houthi called on Houthi forces to refrain from further attacks for the time being. 

"We announce our initiative and call on the official Yemeni (Houthi) authorities to stop the firing of missiles and unmanned aircrafts on the US-Saudi aggression countries and their allies in Yemen to drop any justification for their continued aggression or siege," he said. 

On October 30, Secretary of Defense James Mattis along with the US State Department called on all involved in the Yemen conflict to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days." 

"Thirty days from now we want to see everybody around a peace table based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs that will permit the (UN) special envoy, Martin Griffiths -- he's very good, he knows what he's doing -- to get them together in Sweden and end this war," said Mattis. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a similar statement, saying "The United States calls on all parties to support UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen," adding "Substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country." 

David Miliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, had called Pompeo's statement "the most significant breakthrough in the war in Yemen for four years."

    "It is vital that this call for a ceasefire is followed through, and the call for support for the political process heeded," Miliband added. -CNN

    Two days later, Saudi Arabia responded with a massive attack across the Sana'a Governorate, heavily bombarding the capital city and its surrounding sites which are allegedly home to a large Houthi presence - something the Washington Post of course blamed on Houthi unwillingness to come to the negotiating table (something the Saudi coalition has similarly refused to do over the past three years of war). 

    Past airstrikes on Yemen's capital of Sana'a via Reuters

    On November 9, the New York Times announced that the White House would halt the U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition jets engaged in operations over Yemen as a "limited punishment" over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That said, the United States was only providing refueling for around 20% of Saudi aircraft, so the punishment was more of a slap on the wrist. 

    The Trump administration is ending air refueling flights for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen and preparing sanctions against Saudis linked to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, current and former American officials said on Friday. The moves would impose a limited punishment on the kingdom. -NYT

    Meanwhile, after killing a proposal by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to block $300 million in US arms sales to Yemen coalition member Bahrain, Senators propsed another bill that would suspend all US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, led by Bob Menendez (R-New Jersey) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018” — also with the sponsorship of three Democrats — to hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    President Trump, meanwhile, said in a Friday Fox News interview which aired Sunday that it "takes two to tango" to resolve the conflict in Yemen. "I want Saudi to stop, but I also want Iran to stop,he said. 

    Sen. Menendez had previously argued that Bahrain was a "critical ally" especially as the US Navy bases its Fifth Feel there, and that the missile systems the US provides the tiny GCC country had nothing to do with the military campaign in Yemen.

    One of Sen. Paul's supporters,  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), argued that “It is long overdue that we end U.S. complicity in Saudi Arabia’s atrocities,” and said, “We must end all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen now.” Paul's resolution failed 77-21 as it faced a veto threat from the White House and as its opposition argued Bahrain is the wrong target and needed US missile and anti-tank systems to curtail the threat from Iran. 

    Last week, the Saudi-led coalition agreed to evacuate wounded Houthi fighters from Yemen, according to the British Foreign Office, which hailed the move as a breakthrough in peace talks towards resolving the conflict. 

    The dispute, which began in early 2015, has resulted in ia massive humanitarian crisis, as three years of fighting has left one of the region's poorest nations in a state of potential mass famine. In late October, the United Nations warned that half of Yemen's population may soon rely entirely on humanitarian assistance to survive.