The US Secretary of State Pompeo is going to designate the Yemeni Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization. Three leaders of the movement are also placed on a list of globally operating terrorists. The Houthis have been fighting a civil war in Yemen for six years against the government in capital Sanaa.
The statement comes in the final days of Pompeo‘s ministerial and is seen as one of the last acts to secure President Trump’s foreign policy‘s legacy. According to US media, Pompeo will also mark Cuba as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism‘ in the coming days, a qualification that was just deleted under President Obama.
With the action against the Houthis, Pompeo hopes to counter Iran’s interference in the conflict in Yemen. “The Iranian Revolutionary Guard supports the Houthis with missiles, drones and combat training, destroying critical infrastructure,” writes the Minister. Two weeks ago, there was an attack on the airport of the southern port city of Aden, which killed 22 people.
The Houthi rebels are also held responsible for a number of cross-border terrorist attacks, including on shipping. They would also be behind a series of drone attacks on the Saudi oil industry.
Six years of civil war
The civil war in Yemen is in a proxy war between the regional superpowers Saudi Arabia, which supports the government, and Iran, which supports the Houthis. The Americans have been supporting the Saudis since 2015.
Agreed ceasefire, foreign interventions and negotiation talks proved to be in vain: after six years the civil war rages on, with ten to possibly hundreds of thousands of Yemenis killed. Millions have been fleeing. The UN has been ringing the alarm clock about the malnutrition of children.
By officially calling the Houthis terrorists, resources are being freed up to tackle the rebel movement harder and impose tougher sanctions. Aid organisations warn that an escalation of the conflict could aggravate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Pompeo writes in his statement that charities can continue to do their job. For example, special licenses are released to get money and relief goods into the country.
The Houthi rebels are not yet on the European list of terrorist organisations.