Nov 1, 2018

First signs of a U.S. shift on the war in Yemen

A Yemeni youth during a celebration in September. Photo: Ahmad Al-Bash/AFP/Getty Images

Experts tell Axios the call from Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo this week for a cease-fire in Yemen within 30 days could change the direction of the war, but only if followed by more significant steps.

Between the lines: The war in Yemen has torn the country apart, and pressure has been mounting on the Trump administration to reconsider its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Those cries were mostly ignored until the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, an event that raised significant questions about the U.S.-Saudi relationship. It's still unclear, though, whether the recent statements signal a lasting shift in the U.S. approach to the war.

What they're saying:

  • Bruce Riedel, director of the Brookings Intelligence Project and longtime CIA employee: "This is an important change in American policy, calling for an end to hostilities, but it is only a first step. The administration will need to follow up with a robust effort to press the Saudis to end the war with or without the Houthis cooperating."
  • Perry Cammack, a former State Department official and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: "The 30-day Mattis and Pompeo ultimatum is highly welcome and long overdue. The considerable military, logistical and intelligence support the Trump administration provides to Saudi Arabia gives it considerable leverage at a moment when the despicable murder of Jamal Khashoggi has back-footed Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. But is President Trump willing to use this leverage to force a change [in] Saudi calculations?"
  • Aaron David Miller, Middle East Program Director at the Wilson Center: "Seriousness and breakthrough in U.S. policy on Yemen depends on how much leverage we're prepared to use. ... Ending air war will buy time for talking and save lives. It will not settle the crisis or fix Yemen."
  • Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Diplomat in Residence at Southern Methodist University: "[The Mattis and Pompeo statements] suggest that American patience with this war has almost run out. ... [The Saudis] have less leverage, however, right now than they’ve had recently because of the Khashoggi episode. ... The war is a major embarrassment to the Crown Prince. He has a lot invested here, and at some point they can have a peace conference and declare victory, but they’re going to have to give the Houthis some kind of political rights."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.