The Biden administration said Friday that it is removing the terrorist designation for the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen -- reversing a mo
The Biden administration said Friday that it is removing the terrorist designation for the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen — reversing a move made in the final days of the Trump administration and the latest sign of a different approach to the war-torn Middle East.
“After a comprehensive review, we can confirm that [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] intends to revoke the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations of Ansarallah,” a State Department spokesperson said. “We have formally notified Congress of the Secretary’s intent to revoke these designations and will share more details in the coming days.”
BIDEN ANNOUNCES END TO SUPPORT OF SAUDI-LED OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS IN YEMEN
The U.S. has given support to the Saudis in the conflict and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed sanctions on the Houthis and designated them a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO). That move was part of the administration’s efforts to isolate Iran and also support the Saudis in the region.
“The Trump administration simply recognized reality,” Pompeo said last month. “The Houthi forces are terrorists, underwritten by the theocracy, the kleptocracy that runs the Islamic Republic of Iran. That regime is funding a missile program, funding capabilities inside of Yemen that put Europe at risk, put the Middle East at risk. “
Houthis seized territory, including the capital of Sanaa, in 2014. In response, a Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention in 2015. The conflict has led to the deaths of 112,000 people and has obliterated the country’s infrastructure. United Nations estimates say 13.5 million Yemenis face food insecurity.
A recent U.N. report said there was a “growing body” of evidence showing that the Iranian regime is sending weapons and weapons components to the Houthis — including anti-tank guided missiles, sniper rifles and RPB launchers all with markings consistent with those made in Iran.
That report also accused all parties involved of “continuous and widespread human rights and international law violations with impunity; and escalations in fighting and its impact on civilians, including displacements.”
UN EXPERTS FIND ‘GROWING’ EVIDENCE IRAN SENDING WEAPONS TO HOUTHI REBELS IN WAR-TORN YEMEN
However, the designation by the Trump administration had been opposed by the U.N. experts, as well as international aid groups — who feared it would hamper peace talks and complicate the delivery of humanitarian relief.
The State Department on Friday said the decision “has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens.”
“We are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against further such attacks,” the spokesperson said. “Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
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The revocation of the designation comes after President Biden on Thursday announced that the U.S. will end its support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen.
“This war has to end, and to underscore our commitment we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales,” Biden said.
Biden also announced Timothy Lenderking, a career foreign service member who has served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as a special envoy to Yemen.
Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.