Biden Admin Flip-Flops On Houthi Terrorist Designation After Repeated Attacks Against US Interests

(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Reagan Reese White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden’s administration officially moved Wednesday to put the Iran-backed Houthi rebels back on the foreign terrorist list after the group has repeatedly attacked United States interests.

Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, has been designated as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” a move which helps “impede terrorist funding to the Houthis,” National Security Official Jake Sullivan announced in a statement. Biden ordered a retaliatory strike against the Houthis in Yemen on Jan. 11, a response to the group’s repeated drone and missile attacks against commercial ships within the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

“If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will immediately reevaluate this designation,” Sullivan wrote.

“The designation will take effect 30 days from now, to allow us to ensure robust humanitarian carve outs are in place so our action targets the Houthis and not the people of Yemen. We are rolling out unprecedented carve outs and licenses to help prevent adverse impacts on the Yemeni people,” Sullivan continued.

The Houthis began fighting the Yemeni government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, in 2014. As a result of the battle, about two-thirds of the Yemen population, 21.6 million, were “in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection services,” the United Nations reported in March 2023. An additional 4.5 million Yemenis have been displaced, according to the U.N.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration designated the Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah or “Supporters of God,” as a terrorist organization towards the end of his term in Jan. 2021. The Biden administration reversed the decision one month later over concerns on how the designation could impact humanitarian aid to Yemen.

A day after ordering strikes on the Houthi rebels, Biden called the group a terrorist organization, despite not having officially designating them as such at the time.

“Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group?” a reporter asked Biden as he toured small businesses in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 12

“I think they are,” the president responded.

Later on Jan. 12, Biden was asked how soon he was willing to put the Houthis back on the list

“It’s irrelevant whether they’re designated. We’ve put together a group of nations [inaudible] if they continue to act and behave as they do, we’ll respond,” Biden responded.