US designating Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists: report

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday announced that he will be designating the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists.

The administration had been considering the decision to designate the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” for several months, according to The Associated Press. The decision was hindered by the Treasury Department, which brought up concerns that designating the group as such could worsen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The AP notes that Pompeo and his aides are rushing to make moves that they believe will cement their legacy as well as President Trump’s. Apart from the Houthis, known also as Ansarsallah, Pompeo also designated three separate senior rebel leaders as terrorists. 

“These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region,” said Pompeo. “The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”

These actions by the State Department will likely bring about sanctions, the AP notes, and relief organizations have warned new sanctions could obstruct efforts to aid starving Yemenis who have been caught up in their country’s conflict.

“The United States recognizes concerns that these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Pompeo said. “We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.”

Pompeo stated these measures include special licenses to the Treasury Department that will allow U.S. assistance to continue to be flown into Yemen for humanitarian organization within the country.

Mohamed Abdi, director for the Norwegian Refugee Council criticized the move, saying it would “hamstring the ability of aid agencies.”

“We call on President Elect Joe Biden to act upon taking office to ensure Yemeni civilians can still receive life-saving aid,” said Abdi in a statement. “We are calling on the US government to provide unambiguous safeguards and guarantees so that humanitarian aid can still be delivered without delays and across conflict territories regardless of who is in control, and protect aid workers from being criminalised.”

Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of CARE USA, said in a statement, “This is coming at the absolute most difficult time when over 16 million Yemeni women, children and men are living in severe and worsening food insecurity.” CARE stated that Pompeo’s designation was “tantamount to a cease and desist order for the humanitarian response.”

CARE warned that if imports into the heavily reliant country are disrupted, Yemen could lose any remaining “coping capability” and this move could “push people over the brink.”

Updated at 9:02 a.m. 

Tags Civil War Donald Trump Houthi Houthi rebels insurgents Joe Biden Mike Pompeo sanctions State Department Yemen Yemeni Crisis
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