Jan 17, 2022 - World

UAE asks U.S. to reinstate Houthi terrorist designation after attack

Secretary of State Tony Blinken listens as the Emirati foreign minister speaks.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (L) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday in Abu Dhabi.

What they are saying: “During the call between Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed and Secretary Blinken, there was a discussion regarding the idea of re-designation of the Houthis based on their current actions," a senior Emirati official told Axios.

  • "The latest attack on civilian targets in Abu Dhabi, and the hijacking of a UAE-flagged ship, fall squarely in that category.”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the Houthi attack.

  • “We will work with the UAE and international partners to hold them accountable," Sullivan said in a statement.
  • "Our commitment to the security of the UAE is unwavering, and we stand beside our Emirati partners against all threats to their territory."

Driving the news: What started as a civil war in 2004 had escalated into a regional conflict, as the Saudis and other Middle Eastern players have come to the aid of the Yemeni government in the face of the Houthi insurgency.

  • On Monday noon local time, three oil tankers near Abu Dhabi port exploded after being attacked.
  • Three civilians were killed and at least six were wounded.
  • The Houthis claimed responsibility and said they fired missiles and drones at Abu Dhabi port.

Since the attacks, Emirati officials held talks with several of their regional allies and with the Biden administration regarding next steps.

  • The Emiratis publicly called the international community to condemn the attack.
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