Washington will reverse a last-minute decision by the Trump administration to designate Yemen's Houthis as a terrorist organization, US officials said Friday.
The designation was first made by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shortly before he left office, despite his efforts to push through the designation months before.
On Friday, a State Department official told Reuters that Pompeo’s successor, Antony Blinken, would inform Congress of his intention to reverse the move.
“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,” the official was quoted as telling Reuters.
Humanitarian groups and the United Nations heavily criticized the designation by the Trump administration, saying that it would further worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
Pompeo and the Treasury Department were quick to issue sanctions waivers and licenses to allow humanitarian aid to continue flowing into Yemen. Still, Biden’s team has determined that it will be too difficult for groups and international assistance to deliver assistance.
The designation was initially welcomed by US allies in the region, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The Iran-backed Houthis target Saudi Arabia on a near-daily basis with rockets and bomb-laden missiles.
The US official stressed that the action had “nothing to do” with the US view of the Houthis and their “reprehensible conduct” and repeated Washington’s commitment to helping Saudi Arabia to defend its territory against further such attacks.
On Thursday, Biden announced an end to US support for “offensive operations” inside Yemen but assured Riyadh that Washington would continue to help Saudi Arabia defends its people and its territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Friday that the US understood the security threats Saudi Arabia faces from Yemen. “So … we’ll look for ways to improve support for Saudi Arabia’s stability, to defend its territory against threats,” he said.
- With Reuters