Seyed Hossein Mousavian explains why the U.S. and Iran aren’t going to be able to negotiate anytime soon. Instead, he suggests reducing regional tensions by working towards a peace settlement for Yemen:
Given the impasse between Iran and the United States, the most immediate and realistic step toward reducing tensions in the Middle East would be to set aside the idea of negotiations between the two countries for now and instead focus on facilitating direct negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia to discuss, among other things, putting an end to the devastating war in Yemen.
Mousavian is right that the impasse between the U.S. and Iran cannot be resolved in the near future. The Iranian government cannot deal with Trump, who has already burned them in the past and still refuses to offer sanctions relief now. Trump is never going to rejoin the JCPOA or lift sanctions, and Iran won’t agree to the administration’s excessive demands. Finding a way to bring the war on Yemen to an end is the best thing for Yemen and the wider region. It is far more likely to succeed than any attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement on all of the outstanding issues between Washington and Tehran. It may be dawning on the Saudi government that the war on Yemen is a costly failure that makes them less secure. There are reports that the Saudis and Houthis have begun talks to deescalate the conflict. The Financial Times reports that the Houthis have proposed halting missile and drone attacks inside the kingdom in exchange for an end to the bombing of Yemen:
“It’s very fragile but I think both sides have an interest in it working,” the diplomat said. “It’s not peace in Yemen, we are possibly talking about end of daily bombardments across the country and missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, while the UN tries to move on with a political agreement.”
There have been many diplomatic false starts over the last four and a half years, but this effort to scale back the conflict is worth encouraging. To that end, Congress needs to keep the pressure on the Saudis and the administration to recognize that continuing the war is wrong and harmful to the interests of both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Continued U.S. support for the war from the administration remains one of the main obstacles to convincing the Saudi government that a diplomatic solution is the only available route out of the disaster they created. Congress needs to put the president in a bind with the amendments to the defense authorization bill in order to cut off all arms sales and military assistance to the Saudi coalition. Bringing the war on Yemen to an end is worth doing for the sake of the people of Yemen, but it could also serve as the foundation of a broader reduction in regional tensions that stands to benefit everyone involved.