As the Saudi-led Gulf coalition is fractured by the withdrawal of the UAE from Yemen, Washington seeks an exit strategy to end its engagement in the country.
Iran-backed Houthis have put up a tough fight against the Saudi-backed government, even claiming the country’s capital city Sanaa and many other populous areas.
The Saudi-led Gulf alliance appears to have lost its dominance of the conflict. Riyadh's most trusted ally the UAE has already withdrawn from Yemen, leaving the oil-rich country in the lurch and in turn emboldening the Houthis.
While the US is talking to the Taliban to fulfill its exit plan in Afghanistan, it's taking similar measures toward the Houthis and possibly end its support to the Saudi-led alliance’s bloody war in Yemen.
Qatar and Pakistan played a significant role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table with the US, and it remains to be seen who'll act as an arbiter between Washington and the Houthis.
The US Congress also made its opposition to the Yemen war clear in a recent resolution, which condemned the fighting, urging an end to Washington’s intervention there. While US President Donald Trump vetoed the Congressional measure, his administration did face the heat from the country's bipartisan lawmakers.
The UN says Yemen is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as 24 million people, which corresponds to 80 percent of the country's whole population, need “assistance and protection” to live their lives.
Congress’ opposition to the war helped Washington realign its Yemen policy, leading to the chance to seek a diplomatic solution to the costly conflict. The planned US mediation talks will be held in Oman, a Gulf country, which has hosted similar talks in the past, under the leadership of Christopher Henzel, the US Ambassador to Yemen, officials said.
Washington is also planning to advise its Saudi counterparts to try diplomacy to end the war, which has killed more than 90,000 people since the Saudi-led intervention, bringing the country to the brink of famine as it became financially bankrupted.
While Saudi Arabia, which does not have an experienced military, could not defeat the Houthis in Yemen, Riyadh is still apparently willing to continue its engagement in the country, worrying US officials, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
On the other hand, Saudi-backed Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who became leader after Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down from power under pressure from opposition forces in 2011, appears to be a no-no guy for any diplomatic efforts, stymying Western mediation efforts.
Hadi, who has been politically weakened in time, is trying to lead Saudi-led forces from outside Yemen. Hardline stances from both Riyadh and Hadi appeared to contribute to the US launching efforts to hold talks with the Houthis.
The Trump administration’s mediation efforts are not the first US initiative to address the conflict. Before Trump, former president Barack Obama sought a ceasefire with Houthis, sending his envoys to meet them clandestinely in Oman.
The second known effort came in December, when US officials met with Houthi leaders in Sweden under the auspices of UN-led talks.