Tuesday, November 29, 2022

US mulling to re-designate Houthis as terror group

US President Joe Biden says Washington is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthis as a “terror organization.” Biden stopped short of referring to the crimes of the Saudi-UAE coalition on Yemeni civilians.

Biden said on Wednesday his administration is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi movement as an international terrorist organization following drone and missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) claimed by the group.

His comment at a news conference came shortly after the Emirati Embassy wrote on Twitter that UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba urged the Biden administration to restore the designation in response to Monday’s strikes on Abu Dhabi airport and a fuel depot.

Asked if he supported returning the Houthis to the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, from which they were removed nearly a year ago, Biden replied, “The answer is, it’s under consideration”.

The UAE welcomed Biden’s comment, the Emirati Embassy said on Twitter. The “case is clear – launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people”, it added.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that the United Nations and global community must not show leniency and hold the Houthi movement accountable because “it encourages other terrorist organisations to act similarly”.

As part of the initiative he launched last year, Biden appointed veteran US diplomat Timothy Lenderking a special envoy. The State Department also reversed a last-minute Donald Trump administration decision placing the Houthis on the US list of foreign terrorist groups, subjecting them to financial sanctions.

Three people were killed in Monday’s drone and missile attack claimed by the Houthis.

In response, the Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday staged air raids on Sanaa, killing at least 20 people including civilians, according to Houthi media and residents – one of its deadliest attacks since 2019.

A National Security Council spokesperson stated Otaiba held “broad” consultations with Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on the situation that included discussions of the Houthi attack.

The Emirati Embassy added that Otaiba was accompanied by the top UAE intelligence official, Ali al Shamsi.

The embassy, in a second Twitter post responding to Biden’s consideration of the terrorist designation, said Otaiba pressed the case for re-designating the Houthis in his meeting with Sullivan.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, according to the Pentagon.

“Austin conveyed his condolences for the loss of life, and underscored his unwavering support for the security and defense of UAE territory against all threats,” the Pentagon added.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a war against the Arab world’s most impoverished nation in March 2015. The war has been seeking to restore power in Yemen to Riyadh’s favorite officials.

The death toll of the war, now in its seventh year, will reach an estimated 377,000 by the end of 2021, according to a recent report from the UN’s Development Programme.

The fighting has seen some 80 percent of the population, or 24 million people, relying on aid and assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need.

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