Yemen Gets Much-Needed Good News

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The limited cease-fire agreed to by Yemen’s warring sides promises relief for a war-torn country in the grip of famine. After difficult negotiations in Sweden, this week the Yemeni government in exile and the Houthi rebels who control much of the country have agreed to a truce in two key cities, Hodeidah and Taiz. The airport in Sana’a, the capital, may also be opened before the next talks in January, and thousands of prisoners are to be exchanged.

The most important of these steps is the reopening of Hodeidah, the Red Sea port that handles 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports. International agencies can now rush vital humanitarian aid into the country, not a moment too soon for the millions facing starvation.

The United Nations deserves praise for brokering the cease-fire. But the deal would not have been possible without the American coercion of Saudi Arabia, which has for most of the past four years led a coalition of Arab states in a sustained bombing campaign against the Houthis. While the Saudis support the Yemeni government, their main goal is to repulse Iran’s growing support for the Houthis. Any hope of a lasting peace in Yemen rests on ending this proxy war.

Because American pressure is so crucial, the U.S. Senate’s vote to withdraw military aid for the Saudi campaign is welcome. Although it lacks the support it would need in the House of Representatives and the White House to become law, the resolution draws more national and international attention to the brutality of the bombing, and the catastrophe it has caused in one of the world’s poorest countries. The senators should make it clear that any unprovoked resumption of hostilities by the Saudis will attract further censure.

Such warnings will have less effect on Iran, which is already under harsh U.S. sanctions. It falls to the UN to press Tehran to stop backing the Houthi rebellion, or at least lead the rebels toward a permanent bargain with the government.

Yemen remains a long way from peace, but the cease-fire takes it a step in the right direction.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

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