US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels


The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a Jan. 10 statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves.

For nearly six years, Houthi rebels and their allies have been fighting the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. More than 128,000 people have been killed in the violence, and the war has also led to economic collapse and fears of famine.

The Houthis have called Pompeo’s move itself “terrorist,” saying, “We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration.”

Hadi’s government, meanwhile, issued a statement in support of the designation. It said that while it understands apprehensions about “unintended consequences” for the peace process and humanitarian efforts, “it is the continuous and callous interference of the Houthis that has obstructed such crucial efforts.”

Condensed from The New Humanitarian, Jan. 11

Map: Perry-Castañeda Library