Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Congress will be notified of its intention to name the Yemeni Houthi movement, in what will be among the last actions of the Trump administration before the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20.
Here are some of the potential effects:
The virtuous crisis worsened
Pompeo said the United States plans to put in place measures to limit the impact of terrorist designations on some humanitarian activities and imports, such as food and medicine, into Yemen.
The war that lasted more than five years left 80 percent of the population dependent on aid and millions on the verge of starvation.
With funding shortfalls this year, the United Nations has warned that Yemen faces what could be the world’s largest famine in decades.
Aid agencies fear their work will now be criminalized. The Houthis are the de facto authority in the north and humanitarian organizations must obtain permits to implement aid programs, as well as work with ministries and local financial systems.
This classification – with an increase in the burden on banks ‘compliance mechanisms – may affect Yemenis’ access to financial systems and remittances from abroad, as well as complicating imports and increasing commodity prices.
Aid organizations have long warned that sanctions could be disastrous for efforts to help starve Yemeni civilians.
“This was indeed the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, it was already a situation in which millions of people were struggling to provide food, food rations were cut in half for millions, and our warnings of famine have resurfaced. Judge Riona McCormack of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Yemen said: “This is a really life and death issue that we talk about.”
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told Al Jazeera last month that the repercussions for imposing such a designation by the United States would devastate the Yemeni people.
Yemen is already a fragile and volatile country. We are on the brink of starvation now. People are not getting enough to eat, and we don’t have the access we need. “I don’t know how we don’t face massive starvation in the next four or five months,” said Beasley.
Peace efforts were thwarted
The United Nations is trying to resume political talks to end the six-year war between the Houthis and the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the classification may create legal obstacles for the Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, and most major urban centers.
The Houthis may cut off back-channel talks with Saudi Arabia about a nationwide ceasefire, and this move could lead to an escalation of violence and bring the Houthis closer to Iran, which deployed its ambassador to Sanaa in October 2020.
US President-elect Joe Biden indicated his desire for rapprochement with Iran, after the Trump administration severed ties and imposed a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.
Biden stated that he plans to return to the historic nuclear deal with Iran and wants to end the war in Yemen. But designating the Houthis as a “terrorist” severely complicates such moves.