The White House has confirmed that it is currently reviewing whether to (re)designate Yemen's Houthis as a terrorist organization, after for the past weeks the militant Islamist group has attacked several commercial ships and launched missile and drone attacks against Israel as retaliation for the Gaza campaign.
Likely this would allow for more offensive actions against Houthi positions by the US military, and without Congressional approval, when US assets or commercial shipping comes under attack. Asked about a possible new designation in an afternoon press conference, national security council spokesman John Kirby said that "we're actually conducting a review right now on whether that's the right course forward." US officials have raised the possibility of offensive military strikes for the first time, via news wires:
- POSSIBLE STRIKES ON HOUTHIS IN YEMEN CONSIDERED, PEOPLE SAY
- US WEIGHS WHETHER TO ATTACK HOUTHIS BEYOND DEFENSIVE TASK FORCE
- PEOPLE FAMILIAR SAY NO DECISION MADE YET ON STRIKING HOUTHIS
Top Biden spokesman John Kirby says the Biden administration is considering re-designating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 19, 2023
REMINDER: It was Biden who LIFTED the terrorist designation on the Houthis back in 2021. pic.twitter.com/wrlpXKxj4o
But ironically it was the Biden administration that took the Houthis off the terror list in the first place, in 2021.
Below is what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in February of that year:
Effective February 16, I am revoking the designations of Ansarallah, sometimes referred to as the Houthis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended.
This decision is a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.
The Saudi-UAE-US coalition has waged a brutal air war against Yemen and the rebel Houthis going back to 2015, unleashing a dire humanitarian crisis.
The Houthis have long been seen as proxies of Iran, and have lately declared war against both Israel and any vessel going to Israeli ports. The US on Monday announced a ten-nation coalition to patrol and protect the Red Sea from these attacks. This has included, interestingly enough, the tiny island country of the Seychelles. But the Houthis say their resolve remains undeterred...
Yemen tells America to bring it on. pic.twitter.com/85Otaasf3B— روني الدنماركي (@Aldanmarki) December 19, 2023
Amid White House indecision, the number of major shipping and container companies which have temporarily halted all transit through the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea has only grown.
They are as follows: the Italian-Swiss giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, France’s CMA CGM, Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd, Belgium’s Euronav, oil giant BP, Denmark’s A.P Moller-Maersk, Taiwan shipping firm Evergreen, and Norway-based Frontline. As for the naval coalition, there are reports saying it could take a few weeks to actually materialize. By then, many more vessels are likely to come under attack.
The Houthis have meanwhile said this is all part of the war against Palestinians. "The international coalition that America announced under the pretext of protecting maritime navigation in the Red Sea is an alliance to protect the Israeli entity and to protect Israeli ships. It is an integral part of the aggression against the Palestinian people, Gaza, and the Arab and Islamic nations," the group said in a new statement.