President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the U.S. government is designating the Iranian-backed Houthis — or “Ansarallah” — as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” group.
This comes under a week after the Biden administration and the U.K. carried out joint military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in an effort to degrade the Islamist group’s ability to attack commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea.
“Since November, the Houthis have launched unprecedented attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as military forces positioned in the area to defend the safety and security of commercial shipping,” Blinken said Wednesday. “These attacks against international shipping have endangered mariners, disrupted the free flow of commerce, and interfered with navigational rights and freedoms.”
Blinken said that the terrorist designation seeks “to promote accountability for the group’s terrorist activities,” and that if the Houthis cease their attacks, the U.S. will reevaluate their designation.
Although the Houthis were designated as a foreign terrorist organization under the Trump Administration, in February 2021 the Biden administration delisted the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization and as specially designated global terrorists.
Blinken said in 2021 that the Islamist group was delisted “to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Wednesday’s designation will not take effect for 30 days, which Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said will give the administration time to “ensure humanitarian carve outs are in place so our action targets the Houthis and not the people of Yemen.”
At an event in Allentown, Pennsylvania last Friday, President Biden was asked about whether he considered the Houthis a terrorist group, and whether he would seek an official designation.
“A few minutes ago at the coffee shop, you said you think the Houthis are a terrorist group. I’m wondering, how soon are you willing to designate them as such?” a reporter asked the commander-in-chief Friday.
“It’s irrelevant whether we designate them,” Biden responded. “We’ve pieced together a group of nations and we’re going to say if they continue to act and behave as they do, we’ll respond.”