The Trump administration is preparing to designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents a terrorist organization before leaving office in January, fueling fears the move will disrupt international aid efforts and upend United Nations-brokered peace efforts between the Shiite movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, according to several diplomatic sources.
The U.N. and international relief agencies have tried to dissuade the Trump administration from designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, but the apparently imminent decision would give U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another victory in his anti-Iran strategy as he visits Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week. Riyadh, which has been at war with the Houthis for over five years, has already designated the Houthis a terrorist organization and has been urging Washington to do the same.
Parts of Yemen are already suffering from famine, and millions more could experience the same if this designation goes ahead. The effect that this decision will have on the civilian population is horrifying to contemplate. That is why international aid organizations, the UN, and virtually everyone that has been following the conflict in Yemen have been pleading with the Trump administration not to do this. It would be an exceptionally cruel and destructive act, and it also makes no sense on the merits.
Scott Paul of Oxfam reacted to the news earlier tonight:
Reckless homicide on a staggering scale. Revoking these designations needs to be a day one action for President-Elect Biden- and here "day one action" isn't a just a figure of speech. #YemenCantWaithttps://t.co/cHpg5JH8O0
— Scott Paul (@ScottTPaul) January 10, 2021
We cannot forget about the ongoing disaster that our government’s support for the war on Yemen has created, and with this terrorist designation the US is set to make an already appalling humanitarian crisis so much worse. Because most of Yemen’s population lives in Houthi-controlled territory, and the Houthis function as the de facto government, a terrorist designation amounts to full-on economic warfare against the people of Yemen. The FTO designation is the harshest measure that Pompeo could choose, and it shows that he is aiming for causing maximum harm for its own sake.