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America Should Talk to the Houthis

Originally published in The New York Times

A Houthi missile or drone strike aimed at Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Red Sea shipping lanes could spark a broader conflict involving the United States, its Gulf allies and Iran.

In the fifth year of a pitiless war between Ansar Allah, the Iranian-supported movement known as the Houthis, and the Saudi Arabia-led and United States-backed coalition, Sana, the capital of Yemen, doesn’t see many American visitors. For good reason.

The Houthis control Sana and about a fifth of the country’s landmass in all; a majority of Yemen’s 30.5 million people live in Houthi-controlled areas. Misery extends far beyond. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is ranked the world’s worst by the United Nations: Two-thirds of its population need some form of assistance, 10 million suffer malnutrition. Almost a quarter of a million are starving to death.

Two weeks ago, I traveled with a few colleagues to Sana. Our first impression was of its overwhelming sense of isolation from the outside world. Sana had the air of being stuck several decades in the past even before the war. Since then, its few pockets of modernity — barista-style coffee shops, car showrooms and shopping malls trying to imitate tacky Gulf aesthetics — have either been shuttered or fallen into disrepair.

Continue reading in The New York Times