US re-designates Yemen’s Houthis as ‘terrorist’ entity

WASHINGTON: The United States announced Wednesday that it will put Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels back on a list of “terrorist” entities due to their repeated attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.
The Houthis have already faced multiple rounds of air strikes in response to their targeting of merchant vessels, but have continued to carry out attacks they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
They have also declared US and British interests to be “legitimate targets.”
“The Department of State today is announcing the designation of Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, effective 30 days from today,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“The Houthis must be held accountable for their actions, but it should not be at the expense of Yemeni civilians,” he said.
“During the 30-day implementation delay, the US government will conduct robust outreach to stakeholders, aid providers, and partners who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen,” Blinken added.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the designation “is an important tool to impede terrorist funding to the Houthis, further restrict their access to financial markets, and hold them accountable for their actions.”
“If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will immediately reevaluate this designation,” Sullivan said in a statement.
Military and diplomatic pressure
The designation is part of Washington’s strategy to put pressure on the Houthis, which has also included military action against them.
On Tuesday, the US military said it destroyed four anti-ship missiles in Yemen that posed an imminent threat to military and civilian vessels.
The United States and Britain targeted nearly 30 sites in Yemen with more than 150 munitions last week, while American forces later attacked a Huthi radar site in what was described as “a follow-on action” related to the previous strikes.
But Huthi attacks have continued, with the US Central Command saying Tuesday that the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes, and that a Maltese-flagged bulk carrier reported that it was hit but remained seaworthy.
In 2021, US President Joe Biden’s administration removed his predecessor Donald Trump’s last-minute designation of the Houthis as both a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist group.
The removal came in response to fears from aid groups that they would need to pull out of Yemen as they are obliged to deal with the rebels, who effectively are the government in vast areas including the capital Sanaa.
The United States decided to use the specially designated global terrorist designation now because it “provides better flexibility to achieve the aims that we have in terms of carving out and safeguarding humanitarian assistance, as well as the broader well-being of the people of Yemen,” a senior administration official said.
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