US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday he is removing Yemen’s Houthi rebels from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations as of next Tuesday, February 16.
Blinken said in a statement quoted by CNN that the decision to remove the group’s FTO designation as well as its Specially Designated Global Terrorist Designation was driven by concerns that the designation could imperil the ability to deliver crucial assistance to the people of Yemen, calling it “a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
The move reverses a decision that was made by the Trump administration days before the end of his term.
“We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel,” Blinken said Friday, according to CNN.
“The revocations are intended to ensure that relevant US policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. By focusing on alleviating the humanitarian situation in Yemen, we hope the Yemeni parties can also focus on engaging in dialogue,” he added.
Blinken’s announcement comes after the Houthis mounted a number of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, which were condemned by the State Department this week.
He noted in his statement that Houthi leaders Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim remain under sanction.
“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on December 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen,” he said, using another name for the Houthis.
The Houthis and their allies took over large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, in 2015. A Saudi-led military coalition then intervened in Yemen to try to restore the government.
It has long been believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthis to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
Iran denies it is backing the Houthis and has also denied Saudi Arabian accusations that Tehran provided the Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic capabilities.
Last February, the US Navy seized an Iranian weapons shipment bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Source: Arutz Sheva