Israel-Hamas war and Houthi militia in Yemen: latest news

Israel-Hamas war and Houthi militia in Yemen: latest news

The Biden administration is considering designating Yemen’s Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, reimposing in part sanctions it lifted nearly three years ago against the Iran-backed group whose attacks on maritime traffic Red Sea prompted an American military response.

Starting in mid-February, the United States will consider the Houthis a “specially designated global terrorist group,” according to a U.S. official, blocking their access to the global financial system, among other sanctions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a policy that had not yet been officially announced.

But Biden officials stopped short of applying a second, harsher designation — that of “foreign terrorist organization” — that the Trump administration imposed on the Houthis in its final days. The State Department revoked both designations shortly after President Biden took office in early 2021.

This additional measure would have made it much easier to criminally prosecute anyone who knowingly provides the Houthis with money, supplies, training or other “material support.” But aid groups say it could also complicate humanitarian aid in Yemen.

The move is a response and effort to end weeks of Houthi missile and drone attacks on maritime traffic off the coast of Yemen. The attacks, which the group describes as a show of solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, have forced some major shipping companies to reroute their ships, leading to delays and higher shipping costs around the world. After issuing multiple warnings to the Houthis, Mr. Biden ordered dozens of strikes against their facilities in Yemen, even though U.S. officials say the group retains most of its ability to attack Red Sea commerce.

But the designation also reflects a careful effort to strike a balance, one that protects the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen, who have endured famine, disease and displacement for more than a decade civil war after the Houthis took power. capital of the country in September 2014.

American officials fear that labeling the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization could lead humanitarian groups to stop sending supplies to Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, for fear of criminal liability or other U.S. sanctions.

But even the slightest label as a specially designated global terrorist group could jeopardize efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to build a lasting peace deal to end the conflict in Yemen.

Following the Israeli military response in Gaza to the Hamas attacks on October 7, the Houthis have sought to show solidarity with the Palestinians by attacking ships they believe are bound for Israel. The Houthis, a religiously inspired Shiite group, profess their hatred of Israel.

Speaking Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said it was important to signal that “the entire world rejects outright the idea that a group like the Houthis could fundamentally hijack the world.” , as they do.

U.S. officials have not accused the Houthis of planning terrorist attacks beyond the region, and the group fought local al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemenaccording to an October 2023 report from the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.

Yemen’s civil war has been exacerbated by the intervention of neighboring Saudi Arabia and, for a time, the United Arab Emirates, both of which view the Houthis as dangerous proxies for Iran, which provides them with support financial and military.

The conflict has created a humanitarian catastrophe that Mr. Biden, as a candidate in 2020, vowed to address. Led by Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, the Biden administration helped secure a truce in the conflict and tried to help secure a lasting peace deal.

Following debate within the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist group in mid-January 2021. Iran hawks were impatient to punish the Houthis for striking Saudi Arabia and the United States. Emirates, as well as global shipping. Officials at places including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations feared the decision’s impact on humanitarian aid and said it could lead to famine.

In February 2021, less than three weeks after Mr. Biden took office, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken rescinded Mr. Pompeo’s designations. At the time, Mr. Blinken said that “these designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic goods like food and fuel” and that the reversals were “intended to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not prevent assistance to those already suffering from what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

In a press release Tuesday after The Associated Press first reported After the planned action, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, denounced Mr Biden’s removal of the Houthis from the terrorist list in 2021 as a show of “weakness”.

“Removing them from the list of terrorist organizations was a deadly mistake and another failed attempt to appease the Ayatollah,” Mr. Cotton said, referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Biden has been considering the move for at least two years, telling reporters in January 2022 that reinstating the Houthis’ terrorist designation was “under study” after the group carried out a deadly cross-border strike against the United Arab Emirates.

When asked last week whether he considered the Houthis a terrorist group, Mr. Biden did not hesitate. “I think so,” he replied.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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