Feb 9, 2022 - World

White House holds meeting on redesignating Houthis as terrorist organization

Houthi followers ride vehicles that carry coffins of Houthi fighters who were killed in fighting around Yemen's Marib city in November 2021. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images
Houthi followers ride vehicles that carry coffins of Houthi fighters who were killed in fighting around Yemen's Marib city in November 2021. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

The White House last Friday held an interagency meeting to discuss the possibility of redesignating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, two sources briefed on the issue told me.

The big picture: Less than a month after he assumed office, Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthi rebels, arguing it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people.

  • In recent weeks, the Houthis carried out several missile and drone attacks targeting the UAE, a member of the Saudi-led coalition that has waged an aerial campaign against the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since 2015.
  • Following the first attack in which three people were killed, the Emiratis asked the Biden administration to redesignate the Houthis as a terror group.

Behind the scenes: The White House National Security Council is more open to redesignate the Houthis, while the State Department supports targeting specific Houthi leaders with sanctions, but not the Houthis as an organization, according to the sources.

What they're saying: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last Thursday that the Biden administration won’t relent in using sanctions and designations against Houthi leaders or entities who are involved in military attacks against civilians or commit human rights abuses.

  • At the same time, Price said, the U.S. remains committed to addressing the humanitarian emergency in Yemen.
  • An National Security Council spokesperson said Biden has already said the redesignation of the Houthis was under consideration.
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