White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters today that the United States is “conducting a review right now” as to whether the Houthi movement in Yemen should be reclassified as a terrorist organization as the group continues to launch attacks against commercial maritime vessels in the Red Sea.
The review comes amid a report by Politico that the United States is weighing strike options against the Houthis in Yemen, which also coincides with the deployment of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Gulf of Aden. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced the formation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a United States-led international maritime security force that aims to ensure freedom of navigation in the region.
The Houthi movement was previously de-listed as a terrorist organization by the Biden administration back in February 2021, reversing a last minute designation by the outgoing Trump administration. Likewise, the Biden administration said it would no longer support the Saudi-led Coalition against the Houthis.
A reporter asks John Kirby about redesignating the Houthis as a terrorist organization:
"Yeah, we're actually conducting a review right now on whether that's the right course forward." pic.twitter.com/EdodsWLNn2
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) December 19, 2023
At the time, US officials said that classifying the Houthis as a terror group put humanitarian aid shipments to the country at risk and risked political dialogue amid an ongoing civil war.
The State Department, however, still recognized threats posed by the Houthis, stating that it was “clear-eyed about [the Houthis’] malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking U.S. partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on December 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen.”
The de-listing drew criticism from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who both support the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Yemen. The UAE Embassy in the US stated that de-listing was with “good intentions” to reduce hostilities and improve the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, it added that the Houthis have instead “intensified their attacks inside and outside of Yemen, shunned all diplomatic efforts by UN and U.S. mediators, and deepened the humanitarian crisis by diverting and stealing humanitarian aid.”