US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the United States intends to designate the Iranian-backed Houthi group in Yemen a terrorist organization.
Humanitarian aid organizations oppose this step by Pompeo, which comes at the last moments of the Trump administration’s life, and says that this decision may make the humanitarian situation in Yemen deteriorate further.
Unless Congress rejects Pompeos decision, the Houthi group will be placed on the US blacklist on January 19, one day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden advisers are looking to end the devastating war in Yemen six years ago.
US lawmakers from the Democratic Party – the party of President-elect Biden – have informed US Secretary of State Pompeo that taking this step may undermine humanitarian relief work, as well as efforts to reach a peaceful solution in Yemen.
Pompeo said that the US decision aims to hold the Ansar Allah al-Houthi group “responsible for its terrorist actions,” including cross-border attacks threatening civilians and infrastructure, according to a statement by the US Secretary of State issued late Sunday evening.
Pompeo has also designated three of the movement’s leaders as terrorists, including the movement’s leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
Pompeo referred to an attack on December 30 on an airport in Aden, which killed 26 people, and following the attack, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government blamed the Houthis.
Aid organizations ’concerns
The Houthi group controls most of the Yemeni territory, headed by the capital, Sanaa, and the group is already subject to US sanctions.
However, designating the Houthis as a terrorist group is expected to impede external parties from dealing with the Houthi authorities, which may prevent the arrival of bank transfers and impede the purchases of food and fuel, for fear of American prosecution.
Aid organizations warn Pompeo against putting the Houthis on the blacklist, and these organizations say that they have no alternative to deal with the de facto government in northern Yemen.
“We must be able to negotiate with all parties in all conflicts about access to our aid and protection of civilians,” NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said in November. “Our humanitarian action should not be criminalized.”
Pompeo stressed that the US administration is aware of these concerns, and that it will work with non-governmental organizations and the United Nations to ensure humanitarian aid arrives.
Pompeo said, “We plan to take measures to reduce its impact (the decision) on humanitarian activities and on certain imports to Yemen.”
The administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump is increasing its pressure on Iran.
In its final days, the Trump administration aims to make matters logistically and politically difficult for the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who wants to ease sanctions on Iran and return to the nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew.
US officials and analysts say that Iran is supplying the Houthis with weapons, but experts question the extent of this cooperation, and believe that Tehran aims to stand against Saudi Arabia, which is waging a brutal air campaign that killed civilians.
Tens of thousands, most of them civilians, have been killed, millions have been displaced in the Yemen war, and most Yemenis have remained dependent on relief to survive.
Warnings from Congress
Under US law, Congress has seven days to oppose a decision to designate any foreign group as a terrorist group.
But Congress is preoccupied these days with other issues, especially the impeachment issue of President Trump, which is being considered by the House of Representatives for a second time after the outgoing president encouraged crowds of his supporters on January 6 to storm the Congress building to prevent a ceremonial session that would witness his rival Biden a victory. In the elections.
Democratic lawmakers told Pompeo that the move to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group could undermine relief and peace efforts.