Houthi designation will help end Yemeni people’s suffering
The US’ designation of the Houthi militia as a terrorist group has added to a series of previous cumulative steps, which include the efforts of the international community, led by Saudi Arabia, to support the transitional phase in Yemen. This designation is an important step in strengthening efforts to combat terrorism and its financing around the world because Iranian-backed militias such as the Houthis represent a clear threat to international peace and security.
The Houthis did not adhere to the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue, which lasted for 10 months in 2013-14 and saw the Yemenis develop solutions and remedies for all the country’s issues, including Saada, and begin writing a new constitution with the support of the international community.
They have turned against more than 70 agreements made with the Yemeni government, local authorities, tribes and the UN, and have practiced all kinds of terrorist acts, such as killings, the bombing of houses, and recruiting children and throwing them into battle, which reflect their terrorist approach and practices against the Yemeni people.
The Houthi militia has continued to launch indiscriminate missile and drone attacks against civilians, while also threatening international shipping and energy sources in the Gulf, in flagrant violation of international law. Its leaders continue to openly, clearly and explicitly promote their extremist ideological discourse, which calls for violence and the spread of hatred, violating the nature of the Yemeni people, who are moderate and reject armed violence and ideological extremism.
Since the Houthis’ coup began in 2014, the efforts of the US and the EU have relied on diplomacy, without any means of applying pressure to the militia. The Houthis have used this as an excuse to continue the war and refrain from seriously entering the political process.
The US’ decision to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist group will not disrupt the process that is aimed at reaching a comprehensive political solution to end the crisis in Yemen, as other similar groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian Hamas and the Taliban, have already been classified as terrorist organizations. Humanitarian actions were not affected by these classifications, as the voices opposing such moves insisted they would. Rather, relief and humanitarian work continued at their normal pace. It is also possible to work on granting international organizations operating in Houthi-controlled areas a waiver, in addition to the fact that the political process and its consultations have also not been affected and they exist in one way or another in those areas.
Designating the Houthis as a terrorist group serves several important goals. It will support the existing political efforts and will force the group’s leaders to enter into serious peace negotiations and implement any agreement. It will also dry up the Houthis’ financial resources, as businessmen will stop their commercial partnerships with the militia.
The Houthis will no longer be able to recruit large numbers of youths and children. They have already recruited more than 23,000 children to throw into battle, but the tribal sheikhs and Hashemite families will not deal with a terrorist group, as happened with Al-Qaeda in Mukalla and Al-Bayda.
On the one hand, this classification will strengthen the position of the US as a defender of international humanitarian law and human rights, while on the other it will send a clear signal that Washington is taking a firm stand with regard to the Houthis’ targeting of civilians and international shipping and energy sources in the Gulf region.
The US move will force the group’s leaders to enter into serious peace negotiations and implement any agreement.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
The designation also supports efforts to limit Iranian influence in the region, prevents and cuts the ties of terrorist organizations, and contributes to the success of the US’ maximum pressure policy on Iran. Designating the Houthi militia will contribute to the resumption of the Yemeni government’s control over state institutions and will help bring an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.
America’s decision will also support international efforts to limit the transfer of advanced weapons and specific capabilities to the Houthi militia. It will contribute to the UN special envoy for Yemen’s efforts to reach a political solution that ends the crisis in Yemen and stops the terrorist Houthi militia’s operations against the Yemeni people.
The efforts of the US in making this strategic decision reflect its keenness to combat terrorism in all its forms and to confront terrorist groups and extremist ideologies. The rest of the international community and relevant global organizations are now called upon to take similar steps to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist group and to deal with it on this basis, intensify their cooperation, and strengthen their joint coordination to ensure the elimination of terrorism in all its forms.
- Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @drhamsher7