A group of US lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urging him to redesignate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said attacks in the Middle East have increased significantly, including attacks on innocent civilians and energy infrastructure.
President Joe Biden’s administration revoked a terrorist designation of the Houthis introduced by former President Donald Trump in January. Biden also announced in February ending US support for the offensive operations of the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, which intervened in Yemen in 2015.
The Houthis have in the past months stepped up their cross-border aerial attacks on Saudi Arabia. The Iran-backed militia targeted civilian areas in the Kingdom with explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles.
Earlier this month, the Houthis also fired an explosive-laden drone at the Ras Tanura Port, site of a refinery and the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility. And shrapnel from a ballistic missile launched towards the Kingdom fell near a residential area in the city of Dhahran, used by the world’s biggest oil company, Saudi Aramco.
Saudi Arabia maintains that it will continue to treat the Houthis as a terrorist organization regardless of whether the United States decided to designate the group as such, according to the Kingdom's permanent representative to the UN.
“The FTO designation provided the United States with additional leverage to pressure the Houthis to come to the table, and I urge Secretary Blinken to immediately re-designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization once again,” Representative Claudia Tenney said.
“We must be clear-eyed about what’s happening in Yemen - the Houthis continue to act like a terrorist organization and engage in terrorist activity, and it was wrong to de-list them as they continue to target innocent civilians,” she added.
The lawmakers wrote: “The Houthis very clearly meet all legal criteria for designation. They are a foreign organization that engages in terrorist activity that threatens US interests and nationals. They have fired missiles at civilian airports on numerous occasions, targeted civilian energy infrastructure, and threaten international shipping.”
“Further, it is well established that the Houthis receive training, support, and financial backing from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is itself a designated FTO. Revoking the designation of the Houthis without any material change in its behavior undermines the credibility of this important foreign policy tool.”
- With agencies