US mulls designating Yemen’s Houthi movement as foreign terror outfit
RIYADH/WASHINGTON (SAUDI ARABIA/US) – The United States is planning to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on Sunday. This move is something that diplomats and aid groups are worried that it could leave the peace talks under threat and further make efforts to deal with the world’s largest humanitarian crisis complicated.
The decision to blacklist the Iran-aligned group, which was first reported hours earlier, comes at a time when the administration of President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take charge from the Trump administration on January 20.
Pompeo said in a statement late on Sunday, “The Department of State will notify Congress of my intent to designate Ansar Allah sometimes referred to as the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)”,
The Trump administration has been putting forth sanctions related to Iran in recent weeks, pushing some Biden allies and outside analysts to come to a conclusion that Trump aides are on a pursuit to make things difficult for the incoming administration to re-engage with Iran and then restart the international nuclear agreement.
Pompeo said, “I also intend to designate three of Ansar Allah’s leaders, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
He added, the United States planned to implement measures to reduce the impact of the step on humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.
Pompeo said that with the implementation of these designations on Jan. 19, the US Treasury Department will give way to some licenses that will be applicable to some humanitarian activities initiated by non-governmental organisations in Yemen and to certain transactions connected to exports to Yemen of commodities conducted critical such as food and medicine.
The designation has been a topic of fierce debate for weeks within the Trump administration and internal disagreements regarding how to bring out exceptions for aid shipments paving way to a final decision on the blacklisting, multiple sources told.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people seeking aid. Top UN officials have warned that millions of people are suffering from famine and more money is required to deliver aid.
The Houthi group is the de facto authority in northern Yemen and aid agencies have to work alongside them to render assistance.
Ryan Crocker, a retired US ambassador who served in the Middle East, said of the designation. “”This serves no interest at all. Are there elements among the Houthis who have been involved in terrorist acts? Sure. Just as with other groups in the Middle East.”
“The Houthis are an integral part of Yemeni society. They always have been. This is making a strategic enemy out of a local force that has been part of Yemen for generations. They are not Iranian pawns.”
A spokesman for Guterres refused to comment on Sunday. Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But international relief officials have said such measures have often not been successful to unblock the flow of aid as banks and insurance companies are fretting about being at odds with US sanctions, and it could also be the case with Yemen.