Advocates say labelling the Houthis a ‘global terrorist group’ risks worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
It was one of Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy decisions.
Less than a month after taking office in January 2021, the United States president lifted two “terrorist” designations imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move came in “recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen”. The United Nations, as well as humanitarian groups and US lawmakers, had warned the “terrorist” designations could interrupt the flow of aid to the country.
Now, almost exactly three years later, the Biden administration is reimposing one of the designations against the Houthis, declaring them to be a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist group” amid a series of attacks in the Red Sea.
And once again, rights advocates and political analysts are sounding the alarm over the negative effects the decision may have on Yemeni civilians. Many also question whether Wednesday’s designation will succeed in pushing the Houthis to end their attacks.
“I’m very concerned about the devastating consequences for ordinary people in Yemen,” said Afrah Nasser, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC who previously worked as a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Nasser told Al Jazeera that the designation risks deepening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which has experienced a years-long war between the Houthis and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.