WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the Department of State will notify Congress of his intent to designate Yemen's Huthi movement, as a foreign terrorist organization.
"I also intend to designate three of Ansarallahs leaders, Abdul Malik al-Huthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Huthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists", he said in a statement.
The move will impose sanctions on the targets and may complicate the incoming Biden administration’s diplomacy.
The administration had been weighing the formal designation of the Huthi rebels as a “foreign terrorist organization” for months. But that effort had been bogged down in internal disagreements over whether sanctions could be effectively enforced without worsening the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Objections from the Treasury Department were apparently overcome last week after certain exemptions to the sanctions allowing for aid work to continue were arranged.
Late Sunday, Pompeo announced that he was proceeding with the designation of the Huthis, also known as Ansarallah, along with separate terrorist designations of three senior rebel leaders.
“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,” he added.
Consideration of the designation had already prompted complaints from relief organizations that have warned the sanctions could prove catastrophic for efforts to help starving Yemeni civilians who have been caught in the conflict between the Huthis and the Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.
“The United States recognizes concerns that these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Pompeo said in his statement.
“We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” he added.
Those measures will include the issuance of special licenses by Treasury to allow US assistance to continue to flow to Yemen and for humanitarian organizations to continue to work there, he said.