U.S. Lists Houthis as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”

January 17, 2024

The Department of State today is announcing the designation of Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, effective 30 days from today.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Wednesday announcing the State Department’s decision to designate the Houthis – an Iran-backed group that has recently increased attacks on international maritime ships in the Red Sea in support of Hamas amid the Israel-Hamas war – as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” group.

Who Are The Houthis? An Iran-backed, armed religious and political group that has been waging a civil war in Yemen since 2014. Though fighting in the war against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government has decreased, the conflict has led to what’s been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world; of the country’s 32 million people, “21.6 million people need aid, including 11 million children, and more than 4.5 million people are displaced” (Council on Foreign Relations). Two-thirds of Yemen’s population live in Houthi-controlled regions.

The Houthis emerged in the 1990s, and declare themselves as part of the Iran-led axis of resistance,” which opposes the U.S., Israel and the broader West. Other groups considered part of the axis of resistance? U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations Hamas and Hezbollah (Hezbollah is based in Lebanon). Also: Iran is one of four U.S.-designated State Sponsors of Terorism.

In the final weeks of the Trump administration (Jan. 2021), the State Dept. designated the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist group to deter further malign activity by the Iranian regime.” The following month, the Biden administration revoked this designation due to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, with Sec. of State Blinken stating at the time, “the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemeni’s access to basic commodities like food and fuel.”

Why It Matters: The Biden administration is re-designating the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, and is not currently reimposing the “more severe” Foreign Terrorist Organization designation, The Associated Press explains; “That would have barred Americans, along with people and organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction, from providing ‘material support’ to the Houthis,” which aid groups said could impact regular assistance and trade to people in Yemen (a country that imports 90% of its food.”) The reimposed designation to the Houthis entails financial sanctions against the group in order to “impede terrorist funding … and hold them accountable for their actions,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, noting that “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will immediately reevaluate this designation.”

Important To Note: The designation is set to take effect in 30 days, to allow the Biden administration “To ensure robust humanitarian carve outs are in place so our action targets the Houthis and not the people of Yemen,” Sullivan noted. He added, “commercial shipments into Yemeni ports on which the Yemeni people rely for food, medicine and fuel should continue and are not covered by our sanctions.”

Read More: US pledges new sanctions over Houthi attacks will minimize harm to Yemen’s hungry millions (The Associated Press)

How Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea Threaten Global Shipping (Council on Foreign Relations)

Navy Seals Lost At Sea; U.S. Seizes Weapons Bound For Yemen (SmartHER News)

U.S. State Department: Terrorist Designation of the Houthis

White House: Statement from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the Terrorist Designation of the Houthis

Photo: U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller in Wednesday’s press briefing

by Leah Grainery, based in Texas