On January 10, then-US Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the Trump administration was naming Ansar Allah, the de facto Houthi-led government in North Yemen, as a terrorist entity, [it] responsible for his terrorist acts ”. As most commentators have pointed out, this designation would significantly worsen the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, making it extremely difficult to provide much-needed aid to the country and jeopardize the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the war.
The unprincipled politicization of America’s “terrorism” designation and its selective use as a tool of war against political opponents is also damaging, but rarely noted. This undermines any credibility the United States might retain in a factual and unbiased designation of terrorist actors across the world. It also exposes the United States as a belligerent actor who has knowingly harmed the Yemeni people for the past six years.
There is no doubt that since the start of the Saudi-UAE-led war against Yemen in March 2015, all parties to the conflict – and now there are many – have carried out heinous attacks against civilians. in violation of the laws of war. The facts of Ansar Allah’s abuses are well documented, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, obstruction of food and medical aid, and the use of child soldiers.
The war crimes committed by the Saudi-UAE-led coalition are even more catastrophic, in terms of scale, gravity and frequency. These include deliberate and indiscriminate attacks that have terrorized Yemeni civilians, including repeated attacks on children, killing more than 112,000.
In 2016, coalition airstrikes were responsible for two-thirds of civilian deaths. The coalition has carried out widespread and systematic attacks on Yemeni hospitals, medical clinics, schools, universities, factories, weddings, funerals and residential areas using bombs provided by the United States.
The coalition’s prejudice in Yemen has been greatly compounded by its unprecedented land, air and sea blockade on the country, making it extremely difficult, if not often impossible, to import food, medicine and fuel into the country and contributing to a record famine. , malnutrition and disease. The recklessness and cruelty of Saudi and Emirati conduct in this war has led to countless denunciations from the United Nations and governments around the world, despite the endless bullying, threats and corruption from Riyadh and ‘Abu Dhabi.
The United States’ involvement in this war – as a party to the conflict, providing intelligence, targeting support and supplies, in addition to billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and its contribution to unnecessary devastation in Yemen – faced serious national problems and even concerns about responsibility for war crimes.
In 2018, more than two dozen Obama administration officials signed a letter urging an end to US involvement in the Yemen war – an unprecedented public mea culpa to give the green light and then support the war effort. The United States Congress also weighed in, passing a number of resolutions demanding an end to the United States’ role in this war and the ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which were rescued by vetoes from the former President Donald Trump.
It remains to be seen whether President Joe Biden – whose staff consists of many signatories to the letter from Yemen, including Antony Blinken, Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan – will keep his own promise to end arms sales to Arabia. Arabia and the participation of the United States. in the war in Yemen.
Frustrated by their inability to defeat Ansar Allah, despite spending billions to bomb Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have consistently pressured the US State Department to designate the group as “terrorist”, in order to trigger severe sanctions against the country. Like the economic sanctions and terrorist designations applied to Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and their entities, the designation of Ansar Allah by the State Department has nothing to do with an impartial assessment of facts on the ground or the rationale for such a policy.
Instead, it has been deployed as an economic tool of war against international nemeses in the hope that they will meet American demands and relinquish power. Each of these targeted governments remains in power, while the sanctions against them have affected only ordinary people who have little or no say in what their governments do or do not do.
Arguing against Ansar Allah’s terrorist designation purely for humanitarian reasons or for their negative impact on future peace negotiations, as some progressive groups have done, is too narrow and avoids tackling a different consequence but everything also harmful. When the United States chooses to designate one side of an armed conflict as “terrorist”, in this case Ansar Allah, while ignoring but supporting the other’s more egregious terrorist attacks, our government undermines any credibility that the designation can have and diminishes its own international reputation.
Ansar Allah’s terrorist designation and related sanctions deserve condemnation not only because of the harm and suffering they will cause to the Yemeni people, but because they manipulate and distort the original purpose and intention of ‘such labeling. Arguing only about the extent of the suffering caused by these designations is a distraction that opens a tangential debate on whether the suffering is as severe as it is claimed, or who is really responsible for the suffering that results from it – sanctions or the government.
Arguments against any designation of terrorism should center on Washington’s misuse of sanctions and designations of terrorism as an undeclared tool of war. Failure to face the policies and laws that allow the United States to sanction, starve, and harm people around the world – as they do in 39 countries around the world – leads us to discuss without ceases the special merits of sanctions in one place, then in another, then another.
President Biden has the responsibility to radically reform the legislation that empowers one administration after another to inflict economic damage on people around the world. Ending America’s endless wars should mean not only the withdrawal of its troops, but also an end to the misuse of terrorist designations and the destructive economic sanctions that accompany it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.