State Department: Labeling Houthis Terrorists Blocked Aid to Yemen

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters into battlefronts in several Yemeni cities, in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, June 20, 2016. Yemen's civil war has killed some 9,000 people since March 2015 — a third of them civilians, according to the United …
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

President Joe Biden plans to rescind the Trump administration’s decision to label the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen a terrorist organization to allow international humanitarian aid, funded in part by U.S. taxpayers, to flow into areas controlled by the Iran-backed group, a State Department spokesman indicated on Monday.

As Breitbart News has previously reported, “The Houthis are a jihadist organization whose slogan is ‘God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, a Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.’” The Houthi movement triggered the ongoing civil war in Yemen by invading and occupying the nation’s capital, Sana’a, in 2015.

“Some 80 percent of Yemen’s civilian population lives under Houthi control in Yemen, which is why we’re profoundly concerned for the humanitarian applications of [the group’s] designation [as a terrorist organization],” Ned Price, a spokesman at State, told reporters on Monday.

The terrorist designation by the Trump administration, which came with severe U.S. sanctions, would hamper the provision of aid to Houthi-controlled areas, according to some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

The U.S.-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), an NGO, welcomed plans to rescind the Houthi rebels’ terrorist group designation. David Miliband, the IRC head, indicated the designation “would only hinder much-needed aid deliveries to Yemenis living in Houthi-held areas,” ABC News reported Saturday.

Excluding private aid organizations, the U.S. government has already provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Yemen since 2019 alone.

The Houthis control a swath of territory in and around Sana’a, where most of the population resides, which has forced international aid groups to work with the Iran-backed rebels.

“Agencies depend on the Houthis to deliver aid, and they pay salaries to Houthis to do so,” ABC News reported.

On February 5, an unnamed State official confirmed that the Biden administration had notified Congress of its intent to remove the Houthis from the U.S. lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) that triggered sanctions against the group. The move came a day after Biden announced an end to U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-led Sunni coalition fighting the Iran-allied Shiite Houthis since March 2015.

On Monday, the State spokesman noted that the move to reverse the Houthi terrorist group label aims to ease Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, stressing that it would not change the administration’s view of the Iran-backed organization.

Price declared:

This intent to revoke that designation has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and [their] reprehensible conduct, including … attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens, among other moves.

We are committed … to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against [Houthis] attacks.

Our planned action, the secretaries’ intent to delist, is due … to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation.

Price lambasted the Houthis as “malign actors” backed by Iran, adding:

The manner in which they have inflicted suffering on the people of Yemen, the people they purport to govern, their neighbors, the threat they pose to our interests in Yemen … That is why we can and will continue to keep up the pressure … on the Houthi leadership.

Price asserted that the Biden administration could do two things at once, ensuring that the U.S. does not fuel Yemenis’ suffering by limiting the provision of humanitarian aid while continuing to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from Houthi aggression.

Two days after the Biden administration notified Congress that it would remove the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations, the State Department on Sunday called on the Iran-allied group to immediately stop attacks on civilians and cease military operations in Yemen.

The Trump administration’s terrorist designation went into effect a day before President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Echoing other analysts, the State spokesman acknowledged that Yemen’s war created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis due to widespread hunger, disease, and civilian casualties.

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