Biden classifies the Houthis as a terrorist group, while the United States intensifies its counterstrikes in the Red Sea

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Houthi supporters carry rifles as they gather to protest the killing of Saleh Al-Samad, a senior Houthi official, in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Hodeidah, Yemen, April 25, 2018.

Abdul Jabbar Ziad | Reuters

The US State Department on Wednesday designated the Iran-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Sustainable development goalsThis is in an effort to deter further attacks against commercial ships crossing the Red Sea.

The global terrorist designation specifically triggers an asset freeze aimed at cutting off funding to the Houthis, but will not take effect until mid-February. The SDGT sanctions do not specifically apply to food, medicine, fuel, and other humanitarian aid directed to the Yemeni people.

“If the Houthis stop their attacks, we could consider deleting the designation,” a senior administration official said Tuesday in a call with reporters.

This is the next step in the US pressure campaign to weaken the Houthis’ blockade of the Red Sea, which the official described as a “textbook definition of terrorism.”

An aerial view shows Yemenis raising the Palestinian-Yemeni flags, the Lebanese Hezbollah flag, and the slogans of the Houthi group as they protest the violation of Yemen’s sovereignty through air attacks launched by American and British jets on sites in the capital, Sanaa, and some governorates in January, February 12, 2024 in Sanaa, Yemen.

Muhammad Hammoud | Getty Images

The State Department under President Joe Biden Cancel – cancel The designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, or FTO, in February 2021 is just a step away After a month The label was issued under former President Donald Trump.

This reversal came in response to calls from United nations and humanitarian groups that said the terrorist designation and associated sanctions “accelerate Yemen’s slide into widespread famine.”

Three years later, and months after the Red Sea attacks, the Houthis regained their place on the US terrorist list.

The senior administration official said that this time the United States chose the SDGT designation, rather than the stronger foreign terrorist organization designation, in order to better reduce unintended consequences for Yemeni civilians while continuing to deter the Houthis.

He added: “The people of Yemen should not pay the price for the Houthis’ actions.”

The official added that the latest designation of the Houthis as terrorists is “part of a broader effort” to stabilize global trade in the Red Sea and prevent a regional war in the Middle East. Since the Houthis began their strikes shortly after the war between Israel and Hamas began in October, major shipping companies have been impressed. Maersk It temporarily halted its Red Sea trading activity due to safety concerns.

The United States has used it so far Trade restrictionsMilitary pressure and international coordination to fight the Houthis, who pledged to target any maritime entity linked to Israel until the violence in Gaza ends.

An image taken from footage released by the media center of Yemen’s Ansar Allah Houthis on November 19, 2023, showing members of the rebel group seizing an Israel-linked cargo ship at an unspecified location in the Red Sea.

-| AFP | Getty Images

On January 11, the United States and the United Kingdom carried out strikes against 16 Houthi militant sites, a move that contributed to the exacerbation of these attacks. Some experts It is feared that this could lead to the escalation of a broader conflict in the region. The White House rejected this assessment.

“By taking away and weakening some of their abilities, [that] “It certainly makes it more difficult for them to carry out these strikes,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a press conference on Tuesday.

In December, the United States also launched Operation Prosperity Sentinel, a joint defense force of dozens of countries specifically dedicated to protecting the Red Sea.

This article originally appeared on www.cnbc.com

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