Yemen: The United States to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist group
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced late Sunday that the United States will designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist group. Observers fear that this Washington move will aggravate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a country devasted from already ten years of war. The head of US diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, said in a statement, reported by the Agence France-Presse, that the classification aims to hold the Houthis accountable for their terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks that threaten the civilian population, infrastructure and commercial shipping.
In fact, the decision risks complicating Biden’s efforts to reopen diplomatic channels with Iran and review the alliance with Saudi Arabia, which for years has been leading a bloody offensive against the very poor neighboring country. It could also undermine attempts to restore peace to Yemen and complicate efforts to address the humanitarian crisis that the United Nations call biblical. The war proved to be a huge tragedy for the Yemeni population: according to UN figures, the fighting caused almost 100,000 victims, over 3 million displaced people, and a very serious famine.
The Houthi rebels killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children and it was the main cause of prolonging the crisis in the Gulf country. The militia, who control the Yemeni capital and much of its territory, immediately condemned Pompeo’s decision, declaring that they will respond with their bloody means to this provocation. “It is the Americans who are at the origin of terrorism, as are Trump’s actions and politics. Their every decision is condemnable, and we have the right to respond,” senior rebel leader Mohamed Ali wrote on Twitter. “Our people don’t care how Trump sees us because he is himself an accomplice in the murder of the Yemenis.”
The head of US diplomacy explained that his request is part of efforts to increase “deterrence against the nefarious activities of the Iranian regime,” the main support of the Yemeni rebel group, and to help the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting them. Three Houthi leaders were also blacklisted, including their leader, Abdel Malek al-Houthi, responsible of a long list of crimes against Yemeni people.
The inscription of the Houthis on the terrorist list represents the latest blows in the foreign policy of the Trump administration, signed by the US Secretary of State. The State Department will notify the Congress of its willingness to designate the Yemeni movement as a terrorist organization. The measure remains mostly symbolic, and unless Congress blocks the decision, the Houthis will be blacklisted on January 19, the day before the inauguration of the president-elect, Joe Biden, therefore the handover with the Trump administration.