The Biden administration will relist the Houthis as specially designated global terrorists, according to a U.S. official and another person familiar with the decision, neither of whom were authorized to speak on the record ahead of the official announcement Wednesday.
However, the administration will not re-add the Houthis to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, which would present a larger impediment to getting humanitarian aid to Yemen, the two people said.
The Trump administration declared the group — which had at the time already been listed as a specially designated global terrorist — as a foreign terrorist organization in January 2021, despite humanitarian concerns over the impact that decision would have on the ability to deliver essential aid to areas in Yemen controlled by the group. That designation raised questions on whether arranging or attending meetings with Houthi officials would be legal, and how aid agencies would continue coordination with the group to organize essential deliveries.
Less than a month later, the Biden administration removed the Houthis from both terrorism lists, with an official saying at the time that the “decision has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct,” but was instead due to humanitarian concerns.
The Associated Press first reported the decision to relist the group.
Yemen is facing unprecedented levels of hunger, the World Food Program has said, with more than 21 million people requiring humanitarian assistance. Some aid groups worry that anything that could jeopardize food aid would worsen the crisis.
“This designation would add another level of uncertainty and threat for Yemenis still caught in one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises,” said Scott Paul, the associate director of peace and security at Oxfam America. “The Biden administration is playing with fire, and we call on them to avoid this designation immediately and prioritize the lives of Yemenis now.”
U.S. and coalition forces have launched three attacks on what they said were Houthi sites in Yemen in the past week — the latest of which were by U.S. forces on Tuesday — after the group ignored repeated international warnings to stop their attacks in the Red Sea.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a Middle East tour last week that the Houthi attacks “have been aided and abetted by Iran with technology equipment, intelligence information, and they are having a real-life impact on people.”
The Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition began a campaign against the group the following year, leading to a protracted civil war and what the United Nations has previously described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.