On Monday, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stated in an official statement that the United States would designate the Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, and three of its leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).
The statement quoted what Pompeo said: The Department of State will notify Congress of my intent to designate Ansarallah – sometimes referred to as the Houthis – as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity, pursuant to Executive Order 13224. It also added: I also intend to designate three of Ansarallah’s leaders, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, as SDGTs.
According to Pompeo, the decision to designate the leaders as SDGTs will provide additional tools to confront [the group’s] terrorist activity and terrorism, and hold the Houthis accountable for their terrorist acts. He also said that this step comes as part of efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign, and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors.
The statement showed that the Iran-backed militia has been leading a brutal campaign that has murdered hundreds of people and weakened the region. Indeed, last week, the Yemeni army murdered and seized many Houthi militiamen after a penetration try northwest of Saada. The tried assault came after just a week that a missile was fired on Aden’s airport, causing the death of at least 25 people and wounding about 100 others.
Otherwise, Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed informed the Associated Press earlier this month that the techniques used in that assault were hallmarks of the Houthis’ strategy. He also said: Rather than distance itself from the Iranian regime, it has embraced the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism even more.
Moreover, the statement related that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) give the Houthis with missiles, drones, and training, which allowing the group to target airports and other critical infrastructure.
In fact, Iran supports the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war against the internationally-recognized government. On Monday, Yemen’s foreign ministry related that it welcomes the US’ decision to name the Houthis as a terrorist group. It also added that the step aligns with the government’s efforts to punish the militia.
Yemeni foreign minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak declared in a statement that after six years of war, and the imposition of numerous sanctions against individuals, we believe that all political and legal pressures on the Houthis should continue to escalate and intensify in order to create conditions conducive to a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The minister added that he Iran-backed group should be classified as a foreign terrorist organization not only for their terrorist acts, but also for their permanent efforts to prolong the conflict and cause the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world.
Furthermore, the group’s crimes comprise violence civilian homes and places of worship, detaining and torturing journalists and political activists, the use of health and educational facilities for military aims, abolishing economic institutions in Yemen, and also targeting civilians in Saudi Arabia, according to what the foreign ministry stated.
Impact on humanitarian aid
Humanitarian groups had earlier expressed concerns that such a step would impact efforts to provide humanitarian aid to hundreds of civilians in need in Yemen.
But Pompeo said the US is set to put in place procedures that would reduce the impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports to Yemen, saying :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.
The statement reported that as part of this effort, simultaneously with the implementation of these designations on January 19, 2021 the US Department of the Treasury is prepared to provide licenses pursuant to its authorities, and corresponding guidance that relate to the official activities of the United States government in Yemen, including assistance programming that continues to be the largest of any donor and the official activities of certain international organizations such as the United Nations.
The Yemeni foreign ministry indicated in a statement that the Yemeni government is conscious that humanitarian groups have voiced concerns that the designation could have unintended consequences on both the peace process and the current humanitarian situation.
However, the ministry added that it is the continuous and blatant interference of the Houthis that has impeded humanitarian relief efforts, and this classification as a foreign terrorist organization should be viewed as an effective tool to stop their disgraceful behavior, which negatively affects the conduct of relief and humanitarian operations.