Democrat President Joe Biden’s administration has relisted Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group following recent attacks in the Middle East.
The redesignation comes three years after Biden’s move to reverse President Donald Trump’s decision to add Houthis to the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list.
The Iran-backed Houthis will be placed on the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.
According to senior administration officials, relisting Houthis on the SDGT list will trigger sanctions designed to prevent further attacks on global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
“These attacks are a clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law and a major threat to life, global commerce, and they jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.
The move comes in response to dozens of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Houthi terrorists.
The group said the attacks are in response to Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, Houthi terrorists launched anti-ship ballistic missiles from Yemen into the Red Sea.
“We’ve taken this action to pressure the Houthis to cease their terrorist activities, including missile and drone attacks against international shipping,” the official said.
“The ultimate goal of sanctions is to convince the Houthis to de-escalate and bring about a positive change in behavior.”
The terrorist designation is set to take effect in 30 days.
Officials emphasized that commercial shipments of food, medicine, and fuel into Yemeni ports will be exempted so as not to deny humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people amid the civil war between the Houthis and the country’s internationally recognized, Saudi-backed government,
“The administration is prioritizing the mitigation of unintended adverse impacts from this designation that may otherwise arise for the people of Yemen,” a second official said.
Shortly after Biden was sworn into office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reversed Trump’s decision and delisted the Houthis as both a foreign terrorist organization and as specially designated global terrorists in February 2021.
The move was a reversal of President Trump’s decision to place the Houthis on the FTO list near the end of his first term.
The foreign terrorist designation barred Americans and people and organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction from providing “material support” to the Houthis.
However, Democrats claimed that the move would result in an even greater humanitarian catastrophe than what was already happening in Yemen.
An SDGT designation will also freeze Houthi assets, but unlike the FTO designation, it will not impose immigration restrictions on members, according to the State Department.
The SDGT sanctions also will not touch people and organizations who provide “material support” to the Houthis.
“It was the correct step in 2021 to revoke the foreign terrorist organization and SDGT designations for the Houthis,” an administration official said, adding that Blinken made that decision “in recognition of a very dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
According to officials, the SDGT designation is part of a “broader effort” to deter the Houthi attacks along with military action.
The recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have disrupted global shipping.
Linda Thomas Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said last week that 2,000 ships since November have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea.
Houthi terrorists have threatened or taken hostage mariners from more than 20 countries.
On Tuesday, U.S. forces struck and destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles, CENTCOM said.
The missiles had been prepared to launch from Yemen.
“The recent attacks since November are really unacceptable,” the official said.
“We cannot sit idly by and watch what the Houthis are doing in the Red Sea and not recognize their actions for what they are.”