The United States will designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced.
In a statement released Sunday, the nation’s top diplomat said, “These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region. The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah [Houthi rebels] accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”
Since 2015, conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement has caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
Yemen has been mired in violence since the coalition intervened against the Houthi group that ousted the Saudi-backed government in the capital, Sanaa, forcing it to rebase in the south.
Some 80 percent of Yemen’s population are reliant on aid and millions face hunger, an estimated 29 million people, and 112,000 people are estimated to have died thus far.
The outgoing secretary of state has been working overtime to secure Trump administration policies overseas before his successor takes over on Jan. 20, issuing a flurry of sanctions and designations — potentially complicating matters for President Biden’s relationships with those nations.
In designating the Houthis as terrorists, the outgoing administration will leave Biden’s State Department in a bind over whether to undo the move.
Given the rampant famine and deep unrest, Pompeo explained in his statement that the department considered such things when reaching their decision.
“The United States recognizes concerns that these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” the secretary of state said.
“We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant officials at the United Nations, with international and non-governmental organizations, and other international donors to address these implications,” he continued.
“The licenses and guidance will also apply to certain humanitarian activities conducted by non-governmental organizations in Yemen and to certain transactions and activities related to exports to Yemen of critical commodities like food and medicine. We are working to ensure that essential lifelines and engagements that support a political track and return to dialogue continue to the maximum extent possible.”
With Post wires