June 24, 2024

US Re-designates Houthis as Terrorists, Launches Strikes After Attacks on Ships

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Jan 18, 2024

The Biden administration announced on January 17th, 2024 that it is re-designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, reversing a 2021 decision to remove the designation. The move comes after a series of attacks on commercial ships by the Houthis in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Houthi Attacks on Ships Trigger US Response

Over the past two months, the Iran-backed Houthis have significantly escalated attacks on commercial vessels sailing near Yemen. This included an attack on a ship contracted by the US military that injured a civilian crew member.

“The escalating aggression from the Houthis and the increased risk to maritime shipping, necessitated immediate action,” said a State Department spokesperson. “By re-designating the group, we aim to curtail the Houthis’ destabilizing actions while still allowing the flow of humanitarian aid to Yemen.” (Source)

Date Vessel Description
Nov 30, 2023 Pacific Zircon Houthis fired missile at liquid natural gas tanker, causing minor damage
Jan 5, 2024 Echo Voyager US navy contracted drone ship damaged by explosives placed by hijack team
Jan 9 Red Sea Pearl Oil tanker attacked by bomb-carrying drone boat
Jan 14 Armeda Deniz Turkish cargo ship hit by missile

The attacks have raised insurance costs and led some shippers to avoid the region entirely, threatening global trade flows. The Biden administration hopes the terrorist designation will enable stronger legal tools to deter Iranian support and Houthi attacks.

What the Terrorist Designation Means

By labeling the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), the US aims to isolate and squeeze their financial networks. Banks and companies could face sanctions for doing business with designated groups.

However, the designation risks worsening Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis. Aid groups say it could hamper their work and devastate Yemenis reliant on imports. To mitigate this, the US says it will issue exemptions for humanitarian activities.

“We are planning for the designation to increase pressure on the Houthis while minimizing unintended harm on civilians and commercial imports,” a White House spokesperson stated. (Source)

The designation applies to the entire Houthi movement, including its political wing Ansar Allah and military factions. Some experts argue it could undermine peace efforts by alienating Houthi leaders needed to end the eight-year civil war.

“This sweeping designation fails to discriminate between militant factions and political leaders that have shown willingness to engage in peace talks,” noted the International Rescue Commission. (Source)

US Launches Retaliatory Strikes

In addition to the terrorist re-listing, the US military has carried out multiple rounds of airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen over the past week. These strikes were directed at weapons storage, logistics, and command facilities used to coordinate attacks on shipping vessels.

“We will continue to take necessary and appropriate measures against Houthi attacks,” said Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of US Central Command. (Source)

Date Location Description
Jan 13 Sanaa Strikes targeted storage and logistics sites
Jan 15 Hodeidah Strikes hit training camp and weapons cache
Jan 17 Marib Missile production facility destroyed

Some critics argue the strikes risk entrenching the conflict and hurting civilians. They have called for more focus on a diplomatic solution and easing humanitarian access.

“Each escalation, each military action edges Yemen closer towards the brink with the unthinkable becoming inevitable,” warned Human Rights Watch. (Source)

Background to the Conflict

The Houthis are an armed political movement that emerged in the 1990s out of Yemen’s Zaidi Shiite Muslim minority. They fought a series of rebellions against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

After Saleh was ousted in 2012, the Houthis took advantage of political instability to expand their power. In 2014, they captured the capital Sanaa with help from Saleh loyalists, forcing out the internationally recognized government.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition to try and dislodge the Houthis after they toppled the government and advanced towards the south. The ensuing civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and plunged Yemen into a humanitarian crisis described by the UN as the world’s worst.

Despite Saudi-led forces retaking key areas, the frontlines have been largely frozen for years. The Houthis still control much of the north and key infrastructure. They receive money, weapons, and training from Iran – their main foreign backer.

What Next for Yemen and the Wider Region?

  • More talks, pressure needed for ceasefire deal
    • Terrorist designation alone unlikely to force Houthis into serious negotiations
    • But sanctions raise cost of war, combined with military action could bring Houthis to table
  • Conflict risks further regional destabilization
    • Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, UAE increase
    • Missile and drone attacks on oil infrastructure possible
    • Iran may see conflict as way to stress US, Saudi Arabia
  • Humanitarian crisis remains dire – famine possible
    • Aid groups struggling to cope with massive needs
    • Import restrictions, currency crash leave millions hungry
    • Public health risks from cholera, infrastructure collapse

The path ahead for Yemen remains fraught with risks. While re-designating the Houthis gives the US stronger tools to counter their destabilizing actions, finding a political solution to end the grueling civil war is the only way to alleviate Yemen’s suffering. This will require tricky negotiations amid much suspicion and violence. However small, there remains hope that concerted international pressure could wrest compromise from the warring parties.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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