The White House's stance on the controversial delisting of the Houthi rebels in Yemen from the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list remains uncertain. National security spokesman John Kirby dodged direct inquiries about the Biden administration's regret over this decision.
Amid increasing tensions in the Middle East, the Biden administration faces scrutiny over its handling of the Houthi situation.
During a recent press briefing, John Kirby was pressed on whether President Biden regrets the decision to remove the Houthis from the FTO list. Kirby provided an ambiguous response, indicating that the administration is currently reviewing the decision but failed to offer a definitive timeline for this review.
"I've already said that we are going to review that decision. We are. I don't have a date certain for you or any outcome to brief, Jacqui, but we said we're already gonna take a look and review that decision."
The Trump administration had initially designated the Houthis as an FTO, a decision later reversed by President Biden. This move has since been a point of contention, drawing criticism from various quarters.
At the time of the delisting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns about the potential impact of the designation on humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Blinken argued that keeping the Houthis on the FTO list could have a devastating effect on the Yemeni population's access to essential commodities like food and fuel.
According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM):
"These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world. We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran."
This perspective highlights the delicate balance between maintaining international security and ensuring humanitarian access to conflict-ridden regions.
In response to the delisting and recent activities of the Houthis, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill aiming to redesignate the group as an FTO. This measure, if passed, would enable the U.S. to impose sanctions and disrupt the financial networks of the Houthi rebels.
This legislative move comes in the wake of recent attacks by the Houthis on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. These incidents have raised significant concerns about maritime security and the safety of international shipping lanes.
The U.S. destroyer Carney notably intervened by shooting down three Houthi drones that were targeting these vessels. These attacks, believed to be enabled by Iran, pose a direct threat to shipping and maritime security in the region.
The Houthis, as one of several Iran-backed groups, have been involved in over 75 attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East since mid-October. This escalation of hostilities has added to the complexity of the situation, prompting renewed debates over the U.S.'s approach to the group.
The timeline of events surrounding the Houthi issue is critical in understanding the current dynamics. The Biden administration later reversed the Trump administration's original designation of the Houthis as an FTO, a decision that has since been under review.
Notably, the Israel-Hamas war, which started on October 7th, has influenced the regional geopolitical landscape, adding layers to the ongoing conflict and the U.S.'s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East.
The Biden administration's review of the Houthi delisting is an ongoing process, with no clear timeline or expected outcomes disclosed as of yet. This review is crucial in determining the future U.S. stance towards the Houthi rebels and the broader implications for regional stability. This situation remains a significant point of international interest, potentially influencing U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic relations in the Middle East.