Biden Administration Reverses Houthi Terrorism Decision, Gives Hope To Those Fearing Famine

Elias Moyse, News Editor

The Biden administration placed a stay on banned transactions with the Yemeni “Houthi” rebel group, restoring hope for those fearing an exacerbated famine following the Trump administration ban.

The original ban came into effect when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the Houthi rebel group a “foreign terrorist organization” on January 19, the last day of Trump’s term. The declaration meant that all U.S activity and trade with the group would cease immediately, and all American organizations were banned from doing business with the Houthis.

Though the Houthi rebel group is technically the adversary that the United States is helping fight against in the Yemeni Civil War, the designation goes deeper than that. Since the majority of the land in Yemen is held by the Houthis, banning all American transactions means that United States aid groups can no longer transport their aid to these Houthi-controlled provinces. Experts say this change would worsen the worst humanitarian crisis in the modern world, exacerbating the already existing famine in Yemen.

On top of this, the “foreign terrorist organization” designation comes with even more unwritten or unofficial but powerful connotations in the international community: Once a region has a group with this classification operating in it, the vast majority of aid groups immediately pull out of that region, citing the clear and present danger. The American designation also usually comes with an increase in violence in that region, leading to civilian deaths than are already reported in the country.

This change in tone from the majority of American organizations was already extremely apparent even just a few days after the classification was announced: 22 aid organizations called on the United States to reverse the decision on the 24, only 5 days after the ban had taken effect.

Though the stay on this designation is currently set to expire on February 26, as the purpose was to give the Biden administration time to “reconsider” the designation, messages and actions of the Biden State Department suggest this stay will likely be permanent.

Antony Blinken, Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, told senators in his confirmation hearing a few days ago that the U.S would pull all support for the Saudi Coalition currently fighting the Houthis in Yemen. This echoed what Joe Biden had said just a week before the hearing.

The Saudi Coalition is largely blamed for the humanitarian crisis in the country, as their strict military blockade of all Houthi territories is infamous for preventing large amounts of aid from entering the country and getting to Yemeni people. 

The coalition is also known for bombing civilian targets in the country and killing scores of innocent Yemeni citizens, but then claiming that they had intelligence suggesting the region or target had Houthi militants in it.

Bombs with United States serial numbers have been found at many bombed civilian sites since the United States supplies large quantities of military technology and ammunition to Saudi Arabia as a condition of their membership in the coalition.