Middle East

Biden team signals review of Houthi terror designation

Secretary of state nominee says action achieves 'nothing particularly practical’ in advancing efforts against Houthis

Michael Gabriel Hernandez   | 20.01.2021
Biden team signals review of Houthi terror designation


US President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the State Department signaled Tuesday that the incoming administration will quickly review the Trump administration's recent decision to label Yemen's Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization.

Antony Blinken told lawmakers during his Senate confirmation hearing that the Trump administration's action accomplishes "nothing particularly practical in advancing the efforts against the Houthis" while imperiling desperately-needed humanitarian efforts.

"We would propose to review that immediately to make sure that what we are doing is not impeding the provision of human assistance even under these difficult circumstances," said Biden's nominee for secretary of state.

The designation is taking effect on President Donald Trump's last full day in office Tuesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it is intended to hold the rebel group "accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping."

The Houthis are the de facto authority across a wide swath of the badly-impoverished and food scarce nation, and the UN and aid groups have warned that designating the group as a terrorist organization could hinder the distribution of direly-needed aid during the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned Jan. 14 that the decision will push the impoverished nation into "a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years."

Aware of the concerns, Pompeo said the US would issue licenses to exempt "certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen."

Both Lowcock and Blinken said that such a plan to provide what is known as "carve outs" would be insufficient to stem the humanitarian fallout from the blacklisting.

"If the carve outs don’t apply to everyone around the world, it’s not going to get the job done, because most of the humanitarian assistance provided to Yemen is not coming from the United States,” Blinken said.

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