Civil society and faith groups are urging the President-elect of the United States to reverse the decision to label the Houthis of Yemen as “terrorists.”
Dozens of civil societies and faith groups in the United States are urging President-elect Joe Biden to overturn the Trump administration’s decision to label the Houthis of Yemen as a “terrorist” organization.
In a letter (PDF) in Biden on Friday, 50 organizations, including the National Council of Churches and Health Alliance International, said that “rather than being a catalyst for peace, these appointments are a recipe for more conflict and famine.”
They will “prevent the delivery of critical humanitarian aid to millions of innocent people, seriously undermine the prospects for a negotiated settlement of the conflict and further undermine the national security interests of the United States in the region,” the report said. letter.
The administration of outgoing President Donald Trump said On Monday, he referred to the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” and a “specially named global terrorist”.
The foreign policy decision – which is part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and its allies, such as the Houthis – is expected to come into effect on January 19, the day before Biden takes office.
“The designations aim to hold Ansar Allah accountable for his terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping,” Pompeo said in a statement, using the official name of the Houthi movement.
However, the United Nations, humanitarian aid organizations working in Yemen, and US lawmakers condemned the decision as a threat to the lives of millions of Yemenis already hard hit by a devastating war.
The war in Yemen began in 2014 after the Houthis took over much of the country and invaded the capital, Sana’a.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with support from the United States, assembled a military coalition to try to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and the UN has declared the conflict to be the root of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Hassan El-Tayyab, senior Middle East political lobbyist on the Committee of Friends on National Law, one of the signatories of the letter, said the designation of Houthi would block the delivery of aid and hurt the prospect of talks to end the conflict.
“For the sake of millions of Yemenis facing famine, the Biden administration must reverse this disastrous designation and end US military support for the Saudi-UAE-led coalition war on day one,” because Yemen cannot wait, ”El-Tayyab told Al Jazeera.
For his part, Biden pledged to “end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen” as president.
He faces pressure within his own Democratic Party, whose members have tried unsuccessfully to end US support for Saudi forces in Yemen for years.
Senior Democrats criticized the Houthi appointment this week, with House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks calling on Biden to perform a “quick overthrow.”
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Wednesday that Biden’s senior advisers might think an overthrow is “too politically sensitive, given that the Houthis are a violent armed group with a sectarian outlook that toppled the internationally recognized government. of Yemen ”.
But the ICG said Biden should lift both designations “preferably in his first days or in the week” of his tenure.
“That said, lifting designations can take time, and in the meantime, the Biden administration should be prepared to issue as extensive a licensing regime as possible and signal to the humanitarian community and others its intention to revoke designations, ”the group said. .
“It is far better to prevent a widespread famine caused by US actions now than to face the consequences only when they become so obvious as to get out of hand.”