The Biden administration notified Congress that it will remove Yemen’s Houthis from the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, a designation made in the last days of the Trump administration.
“We have formally notified Congress of the Secretary’s intent to revoke these designations,” a State Department official said in a statement. “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.”
Due to the US-backed Saudi-led war in Yemen that has been raging since 2015, about 80 percent of Yemenis are reliant on aid, and mass starvation has been ongoing in the country for years. The terror designation means anyone who does business with the Houthis could be targeted by US sanctions. It essentially criminalizes the delivery of aid and other goods to Houthi-controlled areas, where most of the population lives.
After the Trump administration announced the designation, the UN predicted that it would cause a massive famine, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in “40 years.” The Biden administration initially granted a temporary waiver for people to do business with the Houthis, but the UN said that was not enough and still called for the full reversal of the designation.
The reversal comes after President Biden announced that he will end US support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in Yemen. While it was framed to leave wiggle room for the US to support the Saudis militarily in other ways, the administration seems serious about ending the conflict. Biden also announced that he appointed Timothy Lenderking as the US special envoy to Yemen. Lenderking is a veteran diplomat who will work to end the fighting between the Saudis and the Houthis.