Biden Admin Only Partially Reverses Course After Delisting Houthis From Terrorist List

President Joe Biden’s administration designated the Iranian-backed Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group this week, partially reversing course on their decision from 2021 when they removed the group from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

The designation comes after the Houthis have launched dozens of attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea over the last couple of months, disrupting global commerce.

“This designation seeks to promote accountability for the group’s terrorist activities,” the U.S. State Department said. “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will reevaluate this designation.”

The administration stressed that it did not want the designation to impact the well-being of the Yemeni civilians who live in areas controlled by the Houthis.

“The U.S. government will conduct robust outreach to stakeholders, aid providers, and partners who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen,” the statement said. “The Department of the Treasury is also publishing licenses authorizing certain transactions related to the provision of food, medicine, and fuel, as well as personal remittances, telecommunications and mail, and port and airport operations on which the Yemeni people rely.”

The administration stopped short of re-designating the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), which carries significantly harsher penalties than being designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group.

A FTO designation makes it illegal for any U.S. persons or entities to provide and kind of material support or resources to a group, including financial, training, hard assets, and even communications. A SDGT designation does not designate an entire group as a terrorist organization, rather it is used to target specific people or entities rather than a larger organization.

The New York Times noted that designating the Houthis as an FTO would have “would have made it far easier to prosecute criminally anyone who knowingly provides the Houthis with money, supplies, training or other ‘material support.'”

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