The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) released a statement on Monday that said it was authorizing some transactions with Yemen’s Houthis for about one month.
The move comes as the Biden administration is reviewing the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, which went into effect on January 19th, President Trump’s last full day in office. The designation opens up sanctions on any person or entity that does business with the Houthis.
The OFAC is essentially granting a waiver for transactions with the Houthis that will expire on February 26th. Transactions with individual members of the Houthis under separate sanctions are still prohibited, and if the Houthis had any US assets, they remain frozen.
Due to the US-backed Saudi-led war in Yemen, the civilian population is facing severe food shortages, starvation, and widespread disease. About 80 percent of Yemenis are reliant on aid. Since the Houthis control territory where 70 percent of Yemen’s population lives and are the authorities aid organizations transact with, the designation criminalizes aid deliveries.
But hampering aid deliveries is not the only issue with the terror designation. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and the designation has likely already driven private entities away from doing business in Yemen.
The designation discourages shipowners from delivering to Yemen if it risks US sanctions, and banks are discouraged from transferring money to the country. Even with the OFAC waiver, some companies will probably not bother to trade with the Houthis until the designation is completely reversed.
With such a dire situation in Yemen, every day President Biden waits to end US support for the Saudi war, people will starve. While the UN has not formally declared famine in Yemen, people in the country are actively starving to death and have been for years.