The US is threatening to kill a peace plan for Yemen that was negotiated between the Houthis and the Saudis if the Houthis continue attacking shipping in the Red Sea, which the group has been doing in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza.
The Guardian reported that the Houthis and Saudis have reached a peace deal that could satisfy all the major parties involved, even the Southern Transition Council, a UAE-backed group that wants to see the restoration of North and South Yemen as two separate countries, as they were before Yemen was unified in 1990.
The peace plan has been presented to the UN, but the details have not been disclosed to the public. According to The Guardian, the agreement involves three phases, and a potential US plan to redesignate the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” could prevent the first phase from being implemented.
The first phase involves depositing money into accounts for the payment of civil salaries for workers in Houthi-controlled areas and fully opening airports and sea ports that have been under blockade since 2015. A US terrorist designation would mean any entity that does business with the Houthis would be subject to US sanctions, making both steps impossible to implement without the parties involved facing penalties.
The White House said last month that it was considering redesignating the Houthis as terrorists in response to the attacks in the Red Sea and Houthi missile launches toward Israel. The Trump administration labeled the Houthis as terrorists in January 2021, but the move was quickly reversed by President Biden due to warnings from aid groups that it would doom food-deprived Yemenis living in Houthi-controlled areas.
The Houthis govern Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and most of the territory that used to be the country of North Yemen, which is where 70-80% of Yemen’s population lives. Civilians in Houthi-controlled territory have faced dire food shortages due to the US-backed Saudi-led war and blockade that started in 2015. According to the UN, the war has killed at least 377,000 people. More than half died due to starvation and disease caused by the siege.
Yemenis have had some relief as a ceasefire reached in April 2022 has held relatively well, and the blockade has been eased somewhat. But according to the UN, about two-thirds of the population is still reliant on aid. Until the Yemen peace deal is implemented, there is always a risk of the war reigniting, especially if the US or Israel bomb the Houthis in response to the attacks in the Red Sea.
The Guardian report said that the US warning to the Houthis demonstrates “the price the US is willing to pay” to continue supporting Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza, which has killed at least 18,000 Palestinians, including over 7,000 children.