Washington, D.C. – The Biden Administration announced its decision to designate Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Terrorist Group (SDTG) on Jan. 17, 2024. The move was announced as part of the U.S.’ efforts to respond to Houthi missile and drone strikes against shipping targets in the Red Sea enroute to Israel. The Houthis are the de-facto ruling government in Yemen and are known to be supported by the Iranian government in a conflict where Saudi Arabia and the U.S. support the official Yemeni government. 

The listing will take effect on Feb. 16, 2024, which the Biden administration argues allows time for strategic discussions with humanitarian groups to develop humanitarian “carve outs” and ensure aid continues to flow to civilians in need living under Houthis control.

Prior to this announcement, the Charity & Security Network opposed any moves to re-designate the Houthis. Such designation impedes aid groups, undermines peace processes, and pushes the Houthis closer to Iran. The Trump administration ignored these warnings and originally listed the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) as one of their final acts in Jan., 2021, which was met with outcry from civil society groups. At the time, C&SN applauded the Biden administration after it chose to reverse the listing shortly after taking office in Feb. 2021.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration has changed its mind in wake of the Houthis attacks in the Red Sea. Today’s decision to designate the Houthis as a SDTG, while disappointing, is less restrictive on aid than a FTO designation. FTO designation applies greater restrictions on people and groups that would seek to engage with a listed party, which is often required for humanitarian groups to reach populations under their control. SDTG designation gives the administration more flexibility in preserving humanitarian aid and commercial goods to Yemen, critical for a population highly dependent on such deliveries. 

C&SN plans to monitor this development and work to ensure that the humanitarian allowances provided are adequate to the task of sustaining the nearly 19 million Yemenis that depend on assistance.