The administration of President Joe Biden has formally delisted Yemen’s Houthi movement as a “foreign terrorist organization” and “Specially Designated Global Terrorists”, undoing the last-minute move under former President Donald Trump that the United Nations and aid groups said threatened to further devastate the war-torn country.
The move comes as the Biden administration continues to change tack on the US approach to the war in Yemen, announcing on February 4 that it would end the US support for offensive operations for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, a year after the northern-based Houthis kicked President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour out of the capital Sanaa.Aid groups, the UN, and US legislators had decried the Trump administration designations, which froze any US-related assets of the Houthis, banned Americans from doing business with them and made it a crime to provide support or resources to the movement. It went into effect on January 19, a day before Trump’s term ended.
“Our concern was that the designation would paralyse what is the world’s largest aid response,” she said. “There was the threat that people like myself could be criminalised or prosecuted for delivering aid.”
The UN says Yemen is suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis amid a Saudi blockade, air raids and allegations of war crimes committed by both sides.
While the Trump administration made exemptions for aid groups working in Yemen, observers said they were not broad enough for a country where the majority of the population is living under Houthi control.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement announcing the lifting of the designations last week, called the move “a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen”.