Israel is pressing the Biden administration to redesignate Yemen’s Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” at the behest of the UAE, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday, citing two unnamed officials.
Abu Dhabi has asked President Biden to redesignate the Houthis after the Yemeni group launched attacks on the UAE. The Times report said that the UAE has enlisted the help of Israel.
The Trump administration designated the Houthis as terrorists as one of its last foreign policy moves. The designation was quickly reversed by President Biden since aid groups warned it would make it harder to deliver food aid to Yemen’s starving civilian population.
Conditions have only gotten worse in Yemen over the past year, and aid groups are again strongly warning against the designation. The UAE portrays the Houthis as terrorists, but the recent attacks are clearly a response to Abu Dhabi’s role in the US-backed Saudi-led coalition that has been waging war on Yemen since 2015.
In recent months, the coalition escalated its air war in Yemen. As a result, January was the most violent month for civilians in Yemen since 2016.
An Israeli official portrayed the Houthis as an Iranian proxy and said the designation would curb Iran’s “reckless” influence in the region. “We’re not doing this only for the Emiratis. We believe such a step is in everyone’s interest,” the official said.
While Iran supports the Houthis politically, it’s not clear how much military support the Iranians provide the Yemeni group, if any. Yemen has been under blockade since 2015, making it difficult to get weapons inside the country.
In January, Biden said redesignating the Houthis was “under consideration.” Last week, Axios reported that the White House held a meeting on the possibility of putting the Houthis back on the terror list. The report said members of the National Security Council are warmer to the idea, as opposed to the State Department, which favors targeted sanctions against Houthi leaders.