Biden administration intends to revoke the terrorist designation for the Houthi movement, citing fears of famine and humanitarian crisis in the conflict-hit Yemen. This comes a day after the new president halted the arms sale to Saudi Arabia-led military campaign, widely seen as a proxy conflict between Tehran and Riyadh.
While confirming the decision on Friday, the US State Department official said that the action was taken because of the humanitarian consequences of the last-minute decision by the Trump administration, which the international human rights organizations and the UN had criticized.
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Meanwhile, Chris Murphy, a Democrat and a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the decision. Murphy said in a statement that the designation by the outgoing administration stopped the humanitarian and food aid from being delivered inside Yemen. Just days before Trump left the White House, he designated the Houthi Movement as a “terrorist organization”, baring entities and individuals from financially interacting with the group.
With more than 80 percent of its population of twenty-four million in need of aid, the UN had warned that the designation would potentially push millions towards a large-scale famine. But the State Department official maintained that the latest decision had nothing to do with how Washington views the group and their actions. He added that the US was committed to helping the Saudi Kingdom to defend its sovereignty against attacks on its soil.
Trump administration had exempted several aid groups, including the Red Cross, the UN, and the export of numerous commodities like medicines and agriculture from its designation. However, aid groups maintained that these steps were not enough and called for the decision to be revoked.
The years-long civil war in Yemen pits the Tehran-aligned Houthi against the internationally recognized government. So far, the conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, including civilians, and created one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. In March 2015, a Riyadh-led coalition intervened to support the government against the Houthis and enjoyed Washington’s backing. Years down the lane, the conflict evolved into a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
However, in recent years, the mounting pressure on the US prompted bipartisan calls to end its support for the Riyadh-led military campaign. In January, the UN Human Rights Watch said in its report that all the parties involved in the Yemen conflict, including Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, violated laws of war and launched missiles, rockets, and mortars in densely populated areas.
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