In his first speech on foreign policy, President Joe Biden announced that his administration was cutting support for the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. The president later rescinded the terrorist designation for the Iranian-led Houthi rebels in Yemen so that U.S. humanitarian aid can flow through Houthi areas. 

“This war has to end,” Biden said. “We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen including relevant arms sales.”

Instead of convincing the Houthis to end the violence, they read the message as Washington being weak and confused. The Houthis and their masters in Tehran responded by escalating the violence to nearly unprecedented levels. 

On the ground, the president’s proclamation of withdrawing U.S. support from the Saudi coalition gave the Yemenis the impression that the U.S. was giving the Houthis the green light to renew attacks. And they took advantage of it.

Houthis ramped up their plans to attack the city of Marib which is the site of some of the country’s richest oil fields in the north. Hundreds of fighters on each side have been killed in the violence and the fighting has raged back and forth. Nabeel Khoury a former deputy chief of Mission for the U.S. said that this latest fighting “is a very critical battle.”

“The problem of course is that these short-term gains… could actually derail the new peace process launched by the new U.S. administration.”

Marib province had been largely untouched during the fighting due to its proximity to the Saudi border, until now. It is home to over two million internally displaced persons. 

The Saudi-led coalition has conducted a dozen airstrikes in support of the Yemeni government troops trying to hold on to the area.