Biden Administration Reverses Course, Classifies Houthis As Terrorist Group

In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels operating in Yemen have engaged in numerous attacks of their own against merchant ships and other targets in the Red Sea.

Earlier this month, both United States and British military forces launched an operation against the militant group, and the Biden administration confirmed this week that it would be restoring an order designating the Houthis, officially known as Ansarallah, as a terrorist organization.

Of course, it was also the Biden administration that removed that designation shortly after President Joe Biden was inaugurated in 2021.

In the final days of the Trump White House, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Houthis would be officially registered as a terrorist organization.

“These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region,” he said. “The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”

The following month, however, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reversed that designation, removing the group from the terror list.

“This decision is a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen,” he said in February 2021. “We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.”

For his part, Pompeo addressed such concerns, indicating in his order that U.S. officials “are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.”

Fast-forwarding nearly three years, the Biden administration now recognizes what Pompeo outlined when placing the Houthis on the list.

“These attacks are a clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law and a major threat to life, global commerce and they jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” said one White House official this week.

The reclassification is scheduled to go into effect 30 days after it was announced and shipments of food, medicine and fuel will be exempt from the renewed sanctions.