The designation as a terrorist group should frighten outside actors out of many dealings with the Houthi authorities.
The United States will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, a late move that humanitarian groups say will exacerbate a humanitarian crisis.
With just 10 days of President-elect Joe Biden taking office, the action could complicate the new administration’s efforts to revive diplomacy with Iran, which has ties to the Houthis, and to reassess state relations -United with Saudi Arabia, which carried out a brutal offensive. in Yemen.
“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.
He led a campaign that has “killed scores of people, continues to destabilize the region and denies Yemenis a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country,” he added.
Pompeo pointed to the December 30 attack on an airport in Yemen’s second city, Aden, which killed 26 people and was blamed on the Houthis by the Saudi-backed government.
The rebel group controls much of Yemen and is already under US sanctions.
But a designation as a terrorist group should deter outside actors from doing many transactions with Houthi authorities, including bank transfers and the purchase of food and fuel.
Aid groups as well as members of Biden’s Democratic Party have warned that the move will seriously hamper efforts to address what the United Nations is calling the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
Pompeo has insisted the designations – which will take effect a day before Biden takes office on January 19 – will not affect relief work.
“We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on some humanitarian activities and imports into Yemen,” Pompeo said.
“We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant United Nations officials, with international and non-governmental organizations and other international donors to address these implications.”