President Joe Biden's administration will remove the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen from the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist lists, the State Department confirmed Friday.
The last-minute decision by former President Donald Trump's administration to designate the group that controls 80 percent of Yemen’s territory was widely condemned by international organizations for cutting off the delivery of critical food and aid to a country on the brink of famine.
“Secretary [Antony] Blinken has been clear about undertaking an expeditious review of the designations of Ansarallah given the profound implications for the people of Yemen, home to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” a State Department official confirmed Friday. “After a comprehensive review, we can confirm that the Secretary intends to revoke the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations of Ansarallah.”
The State Department has formally notified Congress of their intention to remove the Houthis from the lists and “will share more details in the coming days,” the official said.
The decision comes just over 24 hours after the Biden administration announced an end to American support for Saudi led offensive operations against the Houthis in Yemen including a freeze on arms sales to the Kingdom.
“We are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against further such attacks,” the State Department official said Friday. “Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
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The official added that the decision to revoke the Houthis' designations “has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens.”
“This is a further, vital, correct decision to bring hope to Yemen’s crisis-stricken population," said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. "The designation of Ansar Allah would have done nothing to tackle terrorism, and everything to make humanitarian aid and commercial traffic impossible."
"The next steps are to raise aid flows, negotiate a permanent ceasefire, and get the diplomatic process moving to establish a sustainable political settlement,” he said.