U.S. to re-list Houthis as terrorists as Canada weighs doing same

Click to play video: 'Red Sea: Do U.S.-U.K. strikes on Houthis in Yemen signal step closer to wider conflict?'
Red Sea: Do U.S.-U.K. strikes on Houthis in Yemen signal step closer to wider conflict?
In the Middle East, tensions are escalating beyond the crisis in Gaza, after a series of joint British-American strikes on Houthi rebels late Thursday — retaliation to the Iran-backed group's attacks on ships travelling in the Red Sea since November. According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, missiles and aircraft struck 60 targets in 16 locations: a combination of Houthi air defence systems, logistical hubs, and facilities storing drones and weapons. As Jackson Proskow reports, the strikes possibly signal another concerning step to a wider conflict in the region — one that many had feared for months. – Jan 12, 2024

The United States on Wednesday said it will once again designate the Houthi movement of Yemen, also known as Ansaralla, as a terrorist group.

This comes after the U.S. targeted the rebels in a third airstrike, following the group’s attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The designation will take effect in 30 days. Global News has confirmed that Canada is also weighing whether it should do the same.

Jean-Sebastien Comeau, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said, “We can confirm that our security and intelligence agencies are currently assessing whether the Houthis should be listed as a terrorist entity under Canadian law. We will have more to say in due course.”

“These attacks fit the textbook definition of terrorism,” said Jake Sullivan, United States National Security Advisor, in a statement on Wednesday. “They have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized global trade, and threatened freedom of navigation.

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“The United States and the international community have been united in our response and in condemning these attacks in the strongest terms.”

Click to play video: 'Strikes on Houthi targets unrelated to Gaza war, says British PM Sunak'
Strikes on Houthi targets unrelated to Gaza war, says British PM Sunak

Sullivan added that the U.S. will “immediately reevaluate” the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) designation if the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. He added that the designation is an important tool to “impede terrorist funding to the Houthis, further restrict their access to financial markets, and hold them accountable for their actions.”

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that holding the Houthis accountable for their actions “should not be at the expense of Yemeni civilians.”

The U.S. State Department will spend the 30-day implementation period conducting “robust outreach” to aid groups and non-government organizations who work in the country,” Blinken said.

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In a background call with reporters on Tuesday evening ahead of the announcement, senior Biden administration officials said the Office of Foreign Assets Control will publish additional licenses allowing transactions of food, medicine fuel and other goods and services to ensure humanitarian aid can continue to flow to the people of Yemen.

The U.S. has been the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen, having delivered over US$5.5 billion since a Houthi takeover ignited a civil war in 2014.

The administration officials said the U.S. will ensure the Yemeni people don’t face “unintended adverse impacts” from the SDGT designation.

That aim was also why the U.S. didn’t impose the more severe Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation, which would have imposed immigration restrictions on Houthi members as well as sanctions on state actors like Iran who provide “material support” to the group.

“The SDGT provides better flexibility to achieve the aims that we have in terms of carving out and safeguarding humanitarian assistance as well as the broader well-being of the people of Yemen and targeting the action towards the Houthis while still achieving our foreign policy aims, which is to call out the Houthis’ actions for what they are, which is unacceptable terrorism,” an official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the SDGT designation before it was publicly announced.

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The Biden administration in February 2021 removed a FTO designation from the Houthis after it had been put in place by the Trump administration.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby defended that earlier decision Wednesday, saying the more severe designation did not provide the “flexibility” needed to help Yemeni people in need.

The World Food Programme says 21.6 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance, 17 million of whom are “food insecure.”

Last month, the United Nations agency was forced to suspend its food distribution program in Houthi-controlled areas of northern Yemen due to limited funding and disagreements with the group on their operations. The suspension puts 9.5 million people at further risk, it said.

Click to play video: 'Economic ripple effects of escalating Red Sea conflict will be felt: business analysts'
Economic ripple effects of escalating Red Sea conflict will be felt: business analysts

The Houthis say the attacks in the Red Sea, a vital corridor for the world’s shipping traffic, are in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza who are facing a deadly Israeli military response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

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At least 24,100 Palestinians have been killed and 60,834 others injured in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave.

The missiles and drones launched by the Houthis have been predominantly aimed at western-flagged commercial vessels as well as military ships, which have shot down a majority of the projectiles.

The Red Sea attacks have already caused significant disruptions to global trade. More than a dozen shipping companies have rerouted around southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, adding weeks and additional fuel costs to their journeys.

The Houthis have vowed to continue their attacks in the Red Sea and threatened to respond to the U.S. and British airstrikes in Yemen, which targeted the group’s weapons and logistical facilities.

On Wednesday, the Houthis attacked a U.S.-owned vessel with a bomb-carrying drone in the Gulf of Aden, the southern entryway to the Red Sea.

Kirby reiterated at the White House that the U.S. is not seeking a prolonged conflict with the Houthis, but that it was up to the group to stop its attacks in order to prevent further reprisals.

“They have a choice to make,” he said.

— with files from Reuters


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