U.S. to Designate Yemen’s Houthis Terrorist Organization

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he plans to designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, Voice of America reported.

The move has been expected as one of the State Department’s possible actions in the waning days of the Trump administration amid its increased pressure on Iran.  The designation will take effect Jan. 19. 

In a statement late Sunday, Pompeo said the designation of the Iran-backed Houthis and three of the group’s leaders are meant to hold them accountable for acts such as “cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.” 

Pompeo also said the intent was to help advance efforts to end the conflict in Yemen that began in late 2014 with the Houthi capture of Yemen’s capital and expanded in early 2015 with the start of a Saudi-led coalition campaign to oust the rebels and reinstall Yemen’s internationally recognized government. 

The United Nations humanitarian office said in a December report there have been an estimated 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 from indirect causes such as a lack of food and health services. 

Ahead of the U.S. designation, humanitarian groups expressed concern that the move could imperil efforts to get aid to Yemen’s civilians. 

“The United States recognizes concerns that these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Pompeo said in his statement. “We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.” 

Pompeo also called on Iran to stop smuggling arms to the Houthis, and for the Houthis to cut ties with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials. 

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