In a significant policy reversal, President Joe Biden has decided to redesignate the Houthis, a Yemen-based Islamist paramilitary group, as a terrorist organization. This decision marks a stark change from his earlier action in 2021, where he removed the group from the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The actions further indicate that Trump was right during his presidency about his designation for the group.
The recent increase in attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea by the Houthis has prompted this significant shift in the Biden administration's stance.
President Biden's initial removal of the Houthis from the terror list in February 2021 was a departure from the Trump administration's designation. It was a decision met with criticism, some viewing it as a hurried attempt to distance his policies from those of his predecessor. The intent was to reassess the impact of the designation on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen, often described as one of the world's worst, was a key factor in the original decision to delist the Houthis, Washington Examiner reported.
The hope was that this action would alleviate some of the suffering. However, the subsequent escalation of hostile activities by the Houthis, particularly their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, challenged this outlook.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the necessity of a swift review of the Houthis' status, considering the dire situation in Yemen. "Secretary [Antony] Blinken has been clear about undertaking an expeditious review of the designations of Ansarallah given the profound implications for the people of Yemen, home to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe."
The redesignation of the Houthis as a terrorist group is seen as a response to their continued aggressive actions. These attacks not only pose a threat to maritime security but also cast doubt on the efficacy of the initial delisting decision.
Critics of the Biden administration's initial move to delist the Houthis have been vocal. They argue that it sent the wrong message internationally. "The Biden administration signaled to the American people in the very first month in office that America does not come first." This sentiment reflects a concern that the decision may have been too hasty and not fully considered the consequences.
The redesignation is an attempt to hold the Houthis accountable for their actions. By labeling them as a terrorist organization again, the administration opens the door to potential sanctions. These sanctions aim to curb the group's activities and signal a commitment to addressing terrorism.
The decision to remove the Houthis from the terror list in 2021 raised questions about the administration's strategy. Critics have questioned the advice Secretary Blinken provided at the time.
"Where was Secretary Blinken to advise against such a decision? Show me a storyline where the ‘bad guys’ get the nice treatment, and it works out well."
The redesignation represents a complex balancing act. It addresses national security concerns while navigating the intricate geopolitics of the Middle East. The administration's move signifies a recognition of the evolving threat landscape and the need for a dynamic response.
President Biden's decision to redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist organization marks a significant policy shift. It reflects a response to the increased aggression from the group and the need for a robust approach to international terrorism.
This decision, while a reversal, showcases the administration's adaptability in foreign policy, responding to changing circumstances and threats.
As the situation in Yemen continues to evolve, so too will the strategies aimed at securing peace and stability in the region.