US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will quickly revisit the designation of Yemen’s Huthi rebels as terrorists and end support to the devastating Saudi offensive on the country, his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on January 19.
At his confirmation hearing, Blinken said he would “immediately” review the outgoing Trump administration’s labelling of the Iranian-linked insurgents, fearing the move was worsening a humanitarian crisis.
He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “At least on its surface, [the designation] seems to achieve nothing particularly practical in advancing the efforts against the Huthis and to bring them back to the negotiating table while making it even more difficult than it already is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who desperately need it.”
Donald Trump’s administration announced the move on January 11, nine days before Biden takes over on January 20.
Trump has been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, offering US logistical help and military sales for its more than six-year campaign to dislodge the rebels who have taken over much of the country.
Blinken said the Saudis have “contributed to what is by most accounts the worst humanitarian situation anywhere in the world.
“The Huthis bear significant responsibility for what’s happened in Yemen, but the way the campaign has been conducted has also contributed significantly to that situation. And so our support should end,” he said.
Warnings from Huthis
The UN and aid groups have warned the terrorist designation risks worsening the plight of a country where millions depend on aid to survive.
The designation took effect on January 19, with the Huthis warning they would respond to any action against them.
They said in a statement: “We are ready to take all necessary measures against any hostile act.”
The designation is expected to halt many transactions with Huthi authorities, including bank transfers and payments to medical personnel and for food and fuel, due to fears of US prosecution.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, called on the US to reverse the move.
He said: “Our position on this has not changed . . . We call on the government to reverse that decision.
“Our concern from the beginning, that we expressed very clearly, is the impact on the commercial sector.
“The vast majority of food and other basic supplies that comes into Yemen comes in through the commercial sector.”
Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in announcing the designation, pointed to an attack on the airport on Yemen’s second city Aden late last month that apparently targeted the country’s new government. A