The Six Years’ War left 80 percent of the population dependent on aid and millions on the brink of famine.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization could disrupt peace efforts and hamper the delivery of life-saving aid in a country where famine fears are growing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Congress would be notified of his intention to nominate Yemen’s Houthi movement, in what would be among the Trump administration’s final acts ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as president on January 20.
Here are some of the possible implications:
Exasperated humanist crisis
Pompeo said the United States plans to put in place measures to reduce the impact of the terrorist designation on certain humanitarian activities and imports, such as food and medicine, in Yemen.
The war that has lasted more than five years has left 80 percent of the population dependent on aid and millions on the brink of famine.
With a funding shortage this year, the United Nations has warned that Yemen faces what could be the world’s biggest famine in decades.
Aid agencies fear their work will now be criminalized. The Houthis are the de facto authority in the north, and aid organizations must obtain permits to carry out aid programs, as well as work with local ministries and financial systems.
The designation – along with the increased burden on banks ‘compliance mechanisms – could also impact Yemenis’ access to financial systems and remittances from abroad, while complicating imports and further increasing price of goods.
Relief organizations have long warned that the sanctions could prove catastrophic for efforts to help starving Yemeni civilians.
“It was already the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, it was already a situation where millions of people are struggling for food, food rations have been halved for millions, our warnings of famine have just resurfaced. So it really is a matter of life and death that we are talking about, ”said Judge Riona McCormack of the Norwegian Council for Refugees in Yemen.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told Al Jazeera last month that the ramifications of the United States imposing such a designation would devastate the Yemeni people.
“Yemen is already a fragile and unstable state. We are currently on the verge of famine. People are not getting enough food, we don’t have the access we need. I don’t know how we won’t face famine in a major way over the next four or five months, ”Beasley said.
Thwarted peace efforts
The United Nations is trying to revive political talks to end the six-year war between the Houthis and the Saudi-Emirati military coalition and the designation could create legal obstacles for the Houthis, who control the capital Sana’a and most major centers urban.
The Houthis could halt indirect talks with Saudi Arabia on a nationwide ceasefire, and the move could lead to an escalation of violence and push the Houthis closer to Iran, which posted an ambassador to Sanaa in October 2020.
US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated his desire for rapprochement with Iran after the Trump administration severed ties and imposed a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
Biden said he plans to return to the historic nuclear deal with Iran and wants the war in Yemen to end. But the designation of “terrorist” of the Houthis seriously complicates these steps.