US Reassigning Terrorist Designation To Houthi Rebels

US Re-Designates Houthi Rebels as Terrorists

( – On January 10, 2021, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a press release announcing the Trump administration’s decision to designate the Shia Islamist political and military group Ansarallah, aka the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group and a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). He explained that those designations would serve as part of the White House’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and its allies throughout the Gulf region.

Shortly after taking office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded those designations, effective on February 16, 2021. He explained that Biden administration officials decided to revoke them due to the “dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.” Reversing the Trump administration’s decision to list the Houthis as an FTO removed the impact of US policies impeding the flow of money, food, and other emergency and humanitarian aid.

The Biden administration recently reversed itself on part of that decision after Yemen-based Houthi rebels launched a series of unprecedented attacks against international maritime vessels and US military forces operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

US Redesignates Houthi Militants as Global Terrorists

On January 17, Blinken announced that the State Department decided to redesignate the Houthis as an SDGT organization. The designation is set to go into effect 30 days after his announcement.

Blinken explained that the Yemen-based Houthis’ recent attacks against military forces and international commercial shipping vessels had “interfered with navigational rights” in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. He also said they “endangered mariners [and] disrupted the free flow of commerce” throughout the region.

The secretary of State said the redesignation would provide mechanisms to “promote accountability” against the radical organization for its “terrorist activities.” Blinken also noted that US officials would reconsider their decision if the Houthis halted their attacks in those bodies of water off Yemen’s western and southern coasts.

The State Department stopped short of reinstating the listing of the Houthis as a FTO, a designation carrying more severe penalties and potential sanctions. Taking that step would have made it easier for officials to prosecute anyone rendering material support to the group, like money, supplies, and training materials. However, it also would have complicated or prohibited efforts to provide much-needed humanitarian aid to Yemen.

At the same time, the US has been working with allies to push back against the Houthis. An unnamed senior administration official spoke with reporters about the upcoming announcement during a background call the night before Blinken issued his statement.

The official noted that the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) in December. A coalition of over 20 nations committed to working with the US to deter Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and defend international shipping operations.

Copyright 2024,