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US redesignates Houthis as global terror group

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(WASHINGTON) — The State Department on Wednesday announced it was relisting Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a global terrorist group in response to the militants’ attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

“This designation seeks to promote accountability for the group’s terrorist activities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will reevaluate this designation.”

The department said the designation will go into effect in 30 days.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the designation is an “important tool” to impede funding to the Houthis, and said the U.S. is open to taking additional actions against the group “to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce.”

The Iranian-backed group was designated as a terrorist organization in January of 2021 — a move that was met with widespread concern from humanitarian groups who feared that the restrictions that accompany the designation would make it nearly impossible to provide aid to Yemen’s impoverished civilians.

President Joe Biden quickly delisted the Houthis when he entered office as part of his administration’s diplomatic push to end Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

The administration had been considering reimposing the designation for weeks, but some officials involved in the decision making were reluctant because of possible disruptions to humanitarian assistance and peace talks. An official familiar with the decision said these priorities will be safeguarded. However, only time will tell if they can create effective workarounds.

Secretary Blinken said Wednesday that the 30-day delay in implementing the change is for the U.S. to reach out to aid providers and other partners involved in facilitating such assistance.

“The Houthis must be held accountable for their actions, but it should not be at the expense of Yemeni civilians,” Blinken said. “As the Department of State moves forward with this designation, we are taking significant steps to mitigate any adverse impacts this designation may have on the people of Yemen.”

When asked about this topic, Biden recently brushed the label off as “irrelevant.”

“It’s irrelevant whether they’re designated,” Biden told reporters on Friday when asked how soon he would designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization after he said earlier in the day said he believed that’s what they were.

The designation comes as the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea following Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise terror attack on Israel have riled commercial shipping and threatened to dangerously escalate heightened tensions in the Middle East. In response, the U.S. has carried out airstrikes on Houthi targets, according to U.S. Central Command.

 

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