After Taliban, US to enter talks with Yemen’s Houthis

Houthi supporters gathered in central Sanaa. [Reuters- Archive]
The Trump administration is preparing to initiate direct talks with Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen in an effort to end the four-year-old war, a conflict that has become a volatile front line in the conflict with Tehran, according to people familiar with the plans, Wall Street Journal reported.

It added that the U.S. is looking to prod Saudi Arabia into taking part in secret talks in Oman with Houthi leaders in an effort to broker a cease-fire in Yemen, according to these people.

The move could open the first significant channel between the Trump administration and the Houthis at a time when fears of a broader regional war are growing.

In 2015, a few months after the war in Yemen began, top Obama administration envoys met secretly with Houthi rebels for the first time in Oman to press for a cease-fire and release of Americans held by the Yemeni fighters. U.S. officials met with Houthi leaders last December in Sweden during United Nations-led peace talks. But there haven’t been any significant direct negotiations since President Trump took office in 2017, current and former U.S. officials said.

The conflict in Yemen has metastasized from a troubling regional civil war into a volatile international fight pitting Iran-backed Houthi forces against a Saudi-led military coalition supported by the U.S.

The Trump administration views Houthi forces as Iran proxies and says Tehran should be held directly responsible for the routine rocket and drone attacks that Yemeni fighters carry out against Saudi Arabia.

Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. military has scaled back its limited support for the Saudi-led coalition, which has been accused of recklessly killing thousands of Yemeni civilians with botched airstrikes.

In April, Mr. Trump vetoed a bipartisan measure that sought to cut off U.S. military support for the war in Yemen.

Congress failed to override the veto, but lawmakers from both parties see the war in Yemen as a serious problem for relations with Riyadh.

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