San Francisco — On February 4, the Biden administration announced plans to end support for “offensive operations” by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. While many are skeptical of the details of the plan, Biden’s actions have signaled a stark departure from Trump-era foreign policy. Much of the skepticism comes from the fact that Anthony Blinken, Biden’s new Secretary of State, supported both the Iraq war and American intervention in Libya. Furthermore, Biden explicitly left the door open to continued support for defensive operations, saying “We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people”.
Previously, the United States had been supporting Saudi Arabia in its campaigns with billions of dollars of weapons as well as military advisors even as the Kingdom prosecuted what many human rights organizations call a genocidal campaign of starvation and targeted civilian attacks in Yemen. This support dates back to the beginning of the war in 2015, when Barack Obama’s administration committed logistical and intelligence support for Saudi Arabia’s incursions into Yemen.
This announcement comes on the heels of a Global Day of Action organized on January 25 to protest the United States’ continuing material support for war in Yemen. The action took place in dozens of cities in 28 countries and in the Bay Area took the form of a spirited car and bike caravan. The coalition that organized the worldwide rally consists of more than 300 organizations from the US, UK, Yemen, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. Their demands to the new Biden administration were to:
- Stop foreign aggression on Yemen
- End weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
- Cease logistical cooperation on the war
- Lift the blockade on Yemen and open all land and seaports
- Restore and expand humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen
The car caravan in San Francisco was organized by the Bay Area Yemeni Alliance Committee, Arab Resource Organizing Center, the East Bay & San Francisco chapters of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and other antiwar and solidarity activists from the SF Bay AntiWar Network.
The caravan started in SOMA near the Bay Bridge. The first stop was at the corporate office of BlackRock. BlackRock is the largest asset manager in the world, controlling more than $7 trillion in assets, whose most lucrative fund has invested nearly $24 billion dollars in war profiteers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman that have supplied fighter jets, Apache Helicopters, tanks, war ships, bombs, missiles, and ongoing weapons maintenance in the devastating Saudi-led war on Yemen. Following the mini-rally at BlackRock, the car caravan proceeded to the Federal Building, where an array of speakers took the stage including many from the Yemeni and Arab communities.
Gerald Smith, one of the organizers of the San Francisco rally and member of DSA East Bay, said “We’re talking about vulnerable defenseless children. We’re talking about bombing hospitals, weddings…how is it in the best interests of American workers that we bomb a wedding in Yemen? Think about that…[This war] must end. Stop the bombing!”
For many in the Bay Area, petitioning the Trump administration seemed like a lost cause. While this announcement signals that the Biden administration will be more receptive to its citizens, the inertia of the United States’ foreign entanglements are difficult to unwind.
Photo Credit: Terry Scussel