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President Biden Needs to Step Up Efforts to Stop the War in Yemen by Ending All Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Mothers are helplessly lowering their toddlers to graves next to the remnants of American-made bombs used by Saudi Arabian forces.

An injured Yemeni child and a man receive treatment at a hospital, following an explosion at a wedding hall during the night, in the Yemeni Red Sea city of Hudeida, on January 2, 2021. - Five women were killed when a projectile exploded at a New Year's Day wedding party in Hodeida, the latest atrocity in the war-torn nation. The government and Huthi rebels blamed each other for the Friday night attack near Hodeida's airport, a frontline between their forces on the edge of the key Huthi-held port. (Photo by

An injured Yemeni child and a man receive treatment at a hospital, following an explosion at a wedding hall during the night, in the Yemeni Red Sea city of Hudeida, on January 2, 2021. - Five women were killed when a projectile exploded at a New Year's Day wedding party in Hodeida, the latest atrocity in the war-torn nation.(Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Think about this number: 400,000 children under age 5 in Yemen could die of starvation this year, according to the United Nations. The entwining of wars and COVID-19 has multiplied the magnitude of death.

President Biden earlier this month announced an end to U.S. support for an offensive in Yemen, but what does this mean? Does this stop Saudi Arabia from waging future wars in Yemen? Will the bombings stop? It is not clear to me from the president’s speech. This was an opportunity to stand up against Saudi Arabia, not stand with them.

The survivors of this war will someday tell stories of all the evils—war, famine, death—and our country will be associated with this.

I am a survivor of a civil war and famine in Somalia that killed my own sister. As I watch the news from Yemen today, memories of the anguished cry of my sister Sadia haunt me as she took her last breath. I lowered her to her small grave when I was only 6 and she was just weeks old. I can never forgive the malnutrition and starvation that took my sister from me. She would have been 27 years old today.

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Thirty years into Somalia’s civil war I never expected that painful experience would haunt someone in 2021. Sadly, the same experiences are happening in Yemen today as mothers are helplessly lowering their toddlers to graves next to the remnants of American-made bombs used by Saudi Arabian forces. Aren’t we complicit here? Things are so bad that many Yemenis are fleeing their homes and seeking asylum in the dysfunctional state of Somalia.

President Biden should step up efforts to stop the war in Yemen by ending all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and condemning their attacks in that country. Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems willing to help Saudi Arabia boost its defenses against attacks on its territory. In this military campaign, the civilians are the collateral damage. The survivors of this war will someday tell stories of all the evils—war, famine, death—and our country will be associated with this. We will be part of their “axis of evil” along with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran, which are currently bombing Yemen.

Italy has halted its sales of missiles to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. can do this permanently; we should end all sales of weapons, and political and military support to any country involved in an active war. It is about time we become the helpers, not complicit in crimes. Let’s remember one important thing: If we think arming countries and sending our troops will help stop terrorism, I think history tells that it breeds terrorism. Every time you bomb a civilian place, you are giving our enemies the opportunity to recruit and register young men.

Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

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