A Dec. 31 New York Times report indicates that on the one hand, U.S. military commanders are pressuring President Joe Biden to allow them to strike at Houthi forces in Yemen that are responsible for attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, but on the other hand diplomats are urging caution. While U.S. forces have struck missile and drone launching sites in Syria and Iraq, Biden has been reluctant to order the same against Houthi bases in Yemen, the Times says. The caution is driven by many considerations, but chief among them is that Saudi Arabia wants to move beyond its costly war in Yemen. Escalating the conflict with the Houthis, who control the capital, Sana, and much of the country’s north, could sink a painstakingly negotiated truce.
“Everybody is looking for a way to de-escalate tensions,” Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, said in an interview earlier this month. “The idea is not to engulf the region in a wider war, but rather to use the tools available to us to encourage the Houthis to dial back their reckless behavior.”