Aid groups warn that the Trump administration’s designation of Yemeni rebels could trigger famine in the war-torn country.
The United States has temporarily suspended the ban on transactions involving Yemen’s Houthi movement as it reconsiders a decision by former President Donald Trump’s administration to designate the group aligned with Iran as a “foreign terrorist organization”.
Monday’s announcement allows all transactions involving the Houthis, involved in a multi-year conflict in Yemen against a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, until February 26.
It comes a day after 22 aid organizations work in war-torn country called the United States to lift the “terrorist” designation on the grounds that it would exacerbate a continuing humanitarian crisis and risk plunging the country into widespread famine.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the appointment of the Houthis on January 19, a day before President Joe Biden took office.
The measure froze all Houthi assets linked to the United States, prohibited Americans from doing business with them, and criminalized providing support or resources to the movement.
The Biden administration has vowed to review the designation, however, amid generalized criticism aid groups and US lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said it “endangers the lives of the Yemeni people.”
Despite limited U.S. license exemptions allowing certain humanitarian activities to continue in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, the United Nations and aid agencies have warned that the designation could trigger large-scale famine by choking off the commercial sector.
“The licenses and associated guidelines do not provide sufficient guarantees to international banks, shipping lines and suppliers who are still at risk of falling under US law,” aid groups said in their letter on Sunday.
“As a result, many in the business sector will likely think the risk is too high to continue working in Yemen.”
The groups, which include Mercy Corps, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee, also said the designation would cause “delays and uncertainty” in their ability to deliver relief. aid and would make it “even more difficult to operate in Yemen.”
Brian O’Toole, a former US Treasury Department official under President Barack Obama’s administration, said the month-long hiatus announced on Monday “essentially wipes out the full effect of the appointment.”
It also gives the Biden administration “a chance to make the decision for itself rather than get stuck with Mike Pompeo’s decision,” O’Toole told Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Yemenis marched through the capital, Sana’a, on Monday, responding to a call from the Houthi movement to condemn the United States for the terrorist designation and for its support for the Saudi-led military coalition. Arabia.
Northern Yemen is largely held by the Houthis, who seized Sanaa in late 2014 and deposed the country’s president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by Arabia.
This prompted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to form a military coalition, with the support of the United States and other Western countries, in an attempt to bring Hadi back to power.
Biden has vowed to end Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition, a pledge that US Secretary of State candidate Antony Blinken reiterated last week at a US Senate confirmation hearing.