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Yemeni pro-government forces on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida on November 13, 2018. Photo: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

A senior Houthi leader announced last night that the rebel fighters would halt military operations against the Saudi-led coalition. Hours later, Yemen’s internationally recognized government signaled that it’s ready to take part in peace talks. And this afternoon, the UN Security Council took up a draft resolution to support the talks.

Why it matters: Yemen’s civil war has cost the lives of as many as 10,000 civilians and created the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. It has also become a flash point for conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran that threatens regional stability.

Details: The UNSC resolution also calls for emergency measures to stave off the massive famine in Yemen, including:

  • A cease fire in the port city of Hodeidah, the gateway for food and other relief
  • A two-week deadline for parties to remove all obstacles to humanitarian aid
  • A rapid injection of donations into the Central Bank of Yemen to allow for pensioners and civil servants to be paid

Where it stands: While it is too early for optimism, external pressure may be creating an opportunity to end the war.

  • Last week, the Saudi-led coalition slowed its offensive into Hodeidah in response to the U.S. decision to cut off aerial refueling for the Saudi bombing campaign. This paved the way for the Houthi cessation of missile attacks and, in turn, for the parties to enter talks.
  • The U.K.’s foreign secretary is now in Iran — the Houthi’s foreign patron — in a bid to secure Tehran’s support for the UN peace process.

What’s needed: Outside pressure will also be essential for making progress on the humanitarian front.

  • If the draft UN resolution passes and the parties comply with its terms, it may yet be possible to stave off the worst of the massive famine that threatens to engulf up to 14 million Yemenis. But military operations in Hodeida must cease and humanitarians will need full access to the port city.

The bottom line: The Trump administration must be ready to rachet up pressure for compliance, perhaps by threatening to withhold intelligence and logistical support for coalition forces. They have so far resisted these steps, but bipartisan congressional pressure had already been building and has spiked since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hardin Lang is vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International.

Go deeper

By the numbers: Catholics, Biden and abortion

Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden — the second Catholic U.S. president — will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, as some church leaders debate whether to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

By the numbers: Overall, two in three U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to take Communion despite his stance on abortion, according to polling by Pew Research Center.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause, chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.

6 hours ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.