President Joe Biden admitted the Iran-backed Houthis are “terrorists,” after revoking former President Donald Trump’s designation of the group as terrorists early on in his administration.
On Friday, a reporter asked Biden, “Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?”
The president responded, “I think they are.”
Biden in February 2021 reversed Trump’s designation of the group as terrorists, which had cut them off from the international banking system.
The Biden administration argued that the move would hurt Yemeni civilians and hindered negotiations with the group, which was locked in a war with U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia.
Former Trump Pentagon chief of staff Kash Patel told Breitbart News in an interview last month that designating the Houthis as terrorists was important in order to squeeze their funding and deter further attacks in Saudi Arabia, where U.S. troops are stationed.
“So you shut them down financially and you are able [to] target them as terrorists. And then if they meet the threshold, you’re able to take out their leadership — people who are actually terrorists,” he said.
“When you remove the designation, like the Biden administration did, you allow them access to the global banking system, you allow them to travel freely, you allow them to engage in business with our allies,” he said. “So you allow them to get money, get funded. You allow Iran to pay them, and we don’t have a recourse. Since they’re not a designated terrorist organization, operationally and intelligence-wise, they’re not a priority to take out, they’re not a priority for intelligence collection purposes.”
The Houthis have been steadily firing missiles and sending attack drones at U.S. military and international commercial warships in the Red Sea, claiming they are in retaliation for the Israeli offensive against Hamas. They have attacked ships at least 26 separate times since November, according to the Pentagon.
Biden last week ordered strikes against Houthi targets meant to degrade the group’s ability to continue the attacks, and vowed further action if necessary. More than 150 munitions were fired at 16 different locations, the Pentagon said. Five Houthis died from the strikes, according to the group.
When asked on Friday if Biden would continue bombing if the Houthi attacks did not stop, he said, “We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior, along with our allies.”
Following a spate of attacks by the Houthis, Joe Biden’s decision to remove the Houthis from the terrorist list should come under more scrutiny.
We need to re-designate them as a terrorist organization.https://t.co/MXkMNco6Ie
— Senator Eric Schmitt (@SenEricSchmitt) December 19, 2023
A reporter later followed up with Biden on his acknowledging Houthis as “terrorists,” asking, “how soon are you willing to designate them as such?”
Biden called it “irrelevant.”
“It’s irrelevant whether they’re designated. We’ve put together a group of nations that are going to say that if they continue to act and behave as they do, we’ll respond.”
The Houthis fired an anti-ship cruise missile at a U.S. Navy destroyer on Sunday, according to U.S. Central Command.