Feb 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. to revoke terrorist designation of Yemen's Houthi rebels

Houthi fighters gather at a recently captured area following heavy fighting with forces loyal to the internationally recognized government on March 2, 2020 in Al-Jawf province, Yemen

Houthi fighters gather in Al-Jawf province, Yemen. Photo: Getty Images

The Biden administration has formally notified Congress of its intention to revoke the terrorist designation for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the State Department confirmed Friday, reversing a last-minute decision by former President Trump.

Why it matters: Humanitarian groups and the United Nations had warned the designation would make it harder for aid to reach the people of Yemen, who are facing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

What they're saying: Secretary of State Antony Blinken "has been clear about undertaking an expeditious review of the designations of Ansarallah [Houthis] given the profound implications for the people of Yemen, home to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe," a State Department spokesperson said.

  • "This decision has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens," the spokesperson added.
  • "We are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against further such attacks." 
  • "Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on Twitter that Friday's announcement was "another good move."

  • "This designation had no practical effect on the Houthis. All it did was cut off practically all food to much of Yemen - a death sentence for millions," he added.

Go deeper: White House announces end to U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen

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