Will Yemen War Finally End? Iran Welcomes Peace Talks as U.S. Support for Saudi Arabia at Risk

Iran has praised the Yemeni peace talks scheduled to take place soon in Sweden, just as U.S. lawmakers were contemplating the future of their country's military assistance to Saudi Arabia in the conflict.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted a statement in which his ministry said it "welcomes the initiative, offers its support for the dialogue, and calls on all Yemeni sides to participate constructively and responsibly." Though Tehran has denied Washington and Riyadh's accusations of providing military assistance to the Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebel group known as Ansar Allah, or the Houthis, Iran's leaders have offered political support to the insurgents battling a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since 2015.

The statement added that Iran "stresses that there is no exit from the crisis in Yemen other than through a political solution based on inclusive intra-Yemeni talks," and "calls on the international community to play a prominent and serious role in facilitating the peace process in Yemen."

"After four years of the bitter war and destructive aggression against the people of Yemen, the aggressor warmongers have not achieved any of their political or hegemonic goals," the ministry stated. "Their campaign has only led to the collapse of economic capacities and the infrastructures of Yemen, caused the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children; oppressed the resilient people of Yemen; and instigated a comprehensive humanitarian catastrophe in the country."

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A sign from the National Awareness Campaign to Forbid Carrying Firearms, in Yemen's coastal southern Hadhramaut province, on November 30. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition is battling both the Houthis and Al-Qaeda, though it has reportedly sometimes worked with the latter against the former. SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images

The Houthis entered the capital city of Sanaa amid mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in late 2014, and ousted the leader in the first weeks of the following year. Considering the rebels to be an Iranian proxy force, Saudi Arabia gathered a U.S.-backed coalition to begin bombing the group on behalf of government forces in March 2015.

Three and a half years later, more than 10,000 people have been killed and the conflict has remained largely in a stalemate, with the Houthis retaining control of the capital. The Saudi-led campaign has long been decried for alleged war crimes, but calls for the U.S. to reconsider or withdraw its support only gained momentum in the aftermath of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was slain last month by the kingdom's agents at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul.

A classified CIA report has reportedly charged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with ordering the killing, but the Saudi government and President Donald Trump's administration have denied this claim. As de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed has been given expansive powers over the kingdom and serves a dual role as defense minister, putting him in charge of the war in Yemen as well.

Despite pleas from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Senate voted 63-37 Wednesday in favor of advancing a measure that could cut the Pentagon's backing for Saudi Arabia. On Thursday, Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, showcased alleged Iranian weapons found in Yemen and other regional countries, and told reporters that "abandoning Yemen right now would do immense damage to U.S. national security interests and to those of our partners in the Middle East."

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Taha al-Mutawakil (center), health minister in the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, arrives at the Sanaa International Airport during the evacuation of wounded rebels on December 3. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. argued that Iran was to blame for the deteriorating situation in Yemen, which the United Nations has called the "world's worst humanitarian crisis."

Former Democratic House candidate Arn Menconi and Security Studies Group President Jim Hanson said on Twitter that senators were expected to gather for another vote on the resolution as early as Tuesday. That same day, the Houthi delegation was expected to arrive in Sweden, as Houthi Political Council spokesperson Mohammed al-Bukhaiti told Reuters on Monday. Citing two sources familiar with the matter, the outlet reported that talks could begin as early as Wednesday.

The developments came as Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, managed to secure the evacuation of 50 wounded Houthi fighters from Sanaa to Muscat, the capital of neighboring Oman, which has remained relatively neutral in the conflict, as well as the larger regional battle of influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In a statement shared to Twitter, Griffiths's office said he "sincerely thanks all the parties who have made this humanitarian gesture possible, and urges all Yemenis to work together in pursuit of peace and stability in #Yemen."

Will Yemen War Finally End? Iran Welcomes Peace Talks as U.S. Support for Saudi Arabia at Risk | World