U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington will designate a Yemeni rebel group as a terrorist organization on the last day of the Trump administration taking office, despite widespread warnings that the move could trigger a devastating famine in the country. ‘Impoverished Arab state.
Mr Pompeo said in an overnight statement that the appointment of the Houthi movement, which is embroiled in a nearly six-year civil war in Yemen, will take place on January 19 – a day before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden.
This decision would provide additional tools to deal with terrorist activities and “advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign and united Yemen, both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors,” he said. declared.
The United States views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy and accuses Tehran of supplying the rebels with weapons, including missiles and drones to attack Saudi Arabia. But the UN and aid groups have said that labeling the movement – which controls populated northern Yemen – a foreign terrorist group would have a serious impact on food imports in a country where around 14 million people, or about half of the population, are on the verge of famine. The UN is leading diplomatic efforts to end the war.
Oxfam, the humanitarian organization, said the move would prevent US humanitarian aid, goods and personnel from entering northern Yemen, where 70% of the population lives, and would drastically reduce them in the rest of the country. .
“Secretary Pompeo’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization is a counterproductive and dangerous policy that will put innocent lives at risk,” Scott Paul told Oxfam. “Every day, these designations will remain in place will worsen the suffering of Yemen’s most vulnerable families.”
Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Financial Times last month that food imports into Yemen fell by a quarter in November, as Washington planned to label the Houthis as a terrorist organization.
He added that importers and traders feared facing US sanctions if the designation goes ahead.
“There is a frightening effect of [terrorist] designation . . . it risks undermining food imports and becomes the straw that tilts the country not just into a small famine, but into a big one, ”Lowcock said.
The Houthis, who captured Sana’a and forced the Yemeni government into exile in early 2015, control the capital and Hodeidah, a port city through which about two-thirds of the country’s import-dependent goods are shipped. If the movement were labeled a terrorist group, any individual or organization dealing with the Houthis would risk US sanctions.
Mr. Pompeo, a hawk from Iran who is seen as the driving force behind the decision, said in a statement that the United States “recognizes fears that these designations have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
He said Washington plans to “put in place measures to reduce their impact on some humanitarian activities and imports into Yemen.”
But aid officials have warned that the vast majority of food consumed in Yemen is imported by traders.
Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis.
More than 233,000 have died either from fighting or from lack of access to food and health services, since Saudi Arabia formed an Arab coalition to intervene in the war against the Houthis in March 2015.
Analysts and diplomats say the Trump administration is moving forward with the decision to make it harder for the new Biden administration to handle crises in the Middle East.