US pursues review of Houthi designation amid regional reservations

“They (the Houthis) overthrew a government in Yemen, they engaged in a path of aggression through the country, they directed aggression toward Saudi Arabia and committed atrocities and human rights abuses,” said Blinken. “And that is a fact.”
Thursday 21/01/2021
Houthi supporters hold up their weapons during a demonstration against the United States decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation, in Sana’a, Yemen January 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
Houthi supporters hold up their weapons during a demonstration against the United States decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation, in Sana’a, Yemen January 20, 2021. (REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The US State Department has initiated a review of the terrorist designation of Yemen’s Houthi movement and is working as fast as it can to conclude the process and make a determination, a State Department spokesperson said on Friday.

Washington seems inclined to reverse the listing of the Houthis although a number of Gulf analysts have expressed wariness that the review of the designation could encourage the pro-Iran militias to disrupt settlement efforts in Yemen and continue regional destablisation activities on behest of Tehran.

President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that Washington would take a look at the designation, which UN officials and aid groups fear is complicating efforts to combat the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

“As noted by Secretary-Designate Blinken, the State Department has initiated a review of Ansarallah’s terrorist designations,” the spokesperson said, using another name used for the Houthis.

“We will not publicly discuss or comment on internal deliberations regarding that review; however, with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen we are working as fast as we can to conduct the review and make a determination,” the spokesperson said.

Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, the designation “seems to achieve nothing particularly practical in advancing the efforts against the Houthis and to bring them back to the negotiating table while making it even more difficult than it already is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who desperately need it.”

Blinken, however, said the United States remained “clear-eyed about the Houthis.”

Houthi soldiers walk past the closed U.S. embassya during a demonstration over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organisation in Sana’a, Yemen, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (AP)
Houthi soldiers walk past the closed U.S. embassya during a demonstration over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organisation in Sana’a, Yemen, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (AP)

“They overthrew a government in Yemen, they engaged in a path of aggression through the country, they directed aggression toward Saudi Arabia and committed atrocities and human rights abuses,” he said. “And that is a fact.”

The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need.

Aid groups and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned against a possible designation, which was one of the parting shots of the Trump administration, saying Yemen was in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-backed Houthis who since engaged in drone and missile attacks inside Saudi territory and seen behind a spate of planted mines targeting Gulf shipping.

UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as Yemen’s suffering is worsened by an economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.