Blinken should call the Houthis terrorists, or just quit
The US is facing a new diplomatic humiliation at a time when the Afghanistan debacle has not been forgotten and its repercussions continue to feature in the global media and in political circles. This time, the embarrassment comes from the very same group that the Biden administration decided was not a terrorist organization: The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, who were removed from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in February.
“The revocations are intended to ensure that relevant US policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. By focusing on alleviating the humanitarian situation in Yemen, we hope the Yemeni parties can also focus on engaging in dialogue,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement at the time, ignoring all the human rights violations being committed by the group.
Last week, a group of Houthi rebels stormed the US Embassy in the capital Sanaa, holding an unknown number of Yemeni nationals who work for the embassy and the US Agency for International Development hostage. They demanded large quantities of equipment and materials in return for the hostages’ release. Even though most of the hostages have since been released, the diplomatic crisis continues, as the terrorist group is still detaining several embassy employees, so far without any further demands.
The State Department did what it does best: It issued a statement demanding the release of all the hostages and promising to continue to monitor the situation. “The US government will continue its diplomatic efforts to secure the release of our staff and the vacating of our compound, including through our international partners,” the statement read.
Washington had suspended embassy operations in Yemen in February 2015, following the beginning of the ongoing civil war between the Houthis, who are backed, funded and armed by Iran, and the international coalition that supports President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. However, storming a foreign country’s embassy and detaining its employees is a terrorist act and a security and diplomatic breach that cannot be tolerated or dealt with by issuing a condemnation or a warning that was not and will not be taken seriously.
Americans still remember the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, in which 52 US diplomats and citizens were taken hostage at the embassy in Tehran and held for 444 days. Also fresh in the memory are the coordinated 1998 attacks that targeted the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, leaving more than 200 people dead and introducing Al-Qaeda to the world.
Blinken should be reminded that the group he defended continues its criminal activities against innocent people in Yemen.
They still remember the Ansar Al-Sharia group’s 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US nationals. There was also the siege of the US Embassy in Baghdad in 2020, following which former President Donald Trump made the courageous decision to order an airstrike in Iraq that killed one of the most brutal terrorists in the region, Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
The common factor in all these attacks is terrorism and, therefore, anyone who planned or executed them is a terrorist, according to all international laws and norms. Al-Qaeda is no different from Ansar Al-Sharia or the Iranian militias in Iraq and their counterpart in Yemen.
So what is stopping President Joe Biden from reversing his revocation of the Houthis’ designation as a terrorist group?
Diplomacy has never worked with terrorists so, when the Biden administration hints at continuing its dialogue with a group of killers and begins to abandon its closest allies in the region, it reflects the state of a weak government that is incapable of defending its citizens or its interests.
Blinken should be reminded that the group he defended continues its criminal activities against innocent people in Yemen, the latest of which was last week’s assassination of journalist Rasha Abdullah Al-Harazi, who was about to give birth to her second child.
If Blinken cannot find it in his heart to redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist group, he should resign and save the US from yet another global humiliation.
Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi