US President-elect Joe Biden’s aide and a group of 25 American lawmakers have denounced a rushed decision by the outgoing administration to designate Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement a foreign “terrorist” organization, saying the move will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn state.
On January 10, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defied warnings from humanitarian groups and announced the blacklisting of Ansarullah.
The designation is set to come into force on January 19, the eve of the inauguration of Biden, whose aides have hoped to mount a fresh push to end the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen.
It freezes any US-related assets of the Houthis, bans Americans from doing business with them and makes it a crime to provide support or resources to the movement.
In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s pick for national security advisor, said the last-minute designation of the Houthi Ansarullah movement “will only inflict more suffering on Yemeni people and impede diplomacy critical to end the war.”
Agree with @SenToddYoung on last-minute terrorist designation of Houthi Movement. Houthi commanders need to be held accountable, but designating the whole organization will only inflict more suffering on Yemeni people and impede diplomacy critical to end the war. https://t.co/c8aQazl9ry — Jake Sullivan (@jakejsullivan) January 16, 2021
Similarly on Friday, 25 members of Congress, led by Gregory W. Meeks, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote a letter to Pompeo about the short-sighted decision by the outgoing US administration.
They underscored the disastrous consequences of the designation and demanded information on the process that led to the rushed policy decision in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Designating the Houthi movement a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) will make it much harder to deliver vital life-saving assistance since, even with humanitarian waivers or licenses for certain assistance provided by the Treasury Department, many aid organizations will be unable to continue their operations due to legal liability and financial risk involved,” the letter read.
“Therefore, we again express our deep concern with and opposition to the intent to designate the Houthi movement as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Licenses alone cannot ensure Yemenis don’t face further obstacles accessing food, medicine, fuel and other necessary goods and services, and thus, we will be urging the incoming Biden administration to fully reverse the designation.”
The American lawmakers further warned that the designation “will not help resolve the conflict nor provide justice for the violations and abuses committed during the war; it will only compound the crisis for millions of Yemenis fighting for their survival.”
“This move in the last days of the Trump administration will undoubtedly make what the UN says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis much worse and push thousands of Yemenis towards greater peril. The fact that the Trump administration rushed this decision ahead without regard to consequences to Yemeni civilians or providing necessary waivers for life-saving aid is morally reprehensible. It also makes UN Special Envoy Martin Griffith’s already difficult job as peace negotiator that much harder and impedes the only viable pathway to ending this brutal war,” Meeks emphasized.
Saudi Arabia launched a devastating military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states, and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western countries.
The aim was to return to power a Riyadh-backed former regime and defeat the Houthis who have been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in the country.
The war has failed to achieve its goals, but killed tens of thousands of innocent Yemenis and destroyed the impoverished country’s infrastructure. The UN refers to the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Riyadh regime enjoyed close ties with the Trump White House, but Biden has vowed to “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children.”