Split in Washington over demands to classify the Houthis as a terrorist group

Washington- Days before the end of the rule of former President Donald Trump, the State Department classified the Yemeni Houthi movement as a “terrorist group”, as part of a policy of maximum pressure on Iran aimed at obstructing the return to the nuclear agreement signed in 2015, which the Trump administration withdrew from in mid-2018.

Experts linked the designation of the Houthi group as a “terrorist group” to the Trump administration’s desire to indirectly restrict Iran.

Weeks after Biden came to power, Washington took the initiative to remove the name of the Houthi group from its list of terrorist groups, and the decision came as a second step after Washington stopped providing military support to the Saudi-led coalition after more than 5 years of war that caused a horrific human tragedy.

Some commentators linked the Biden administration’s decision toward the Houthis to Iran, while others considered it an “olive branch” to offer to Tehran as an expression of its desire to calm regional issues, to pave the way for a new major deal with Iran related to its nuclear file and other regional files.

During his press conference yesterday, marking the one-year anniversary of his assumption of power, the US President indicated that the request to reclassify the Houthis as a “terrorist organization” is under consideration. In answering a question about a request from the UAE in this regard, Biden said that “to end the war in Yemen, the two sides must agree, and this is not an easy thing.”

Emirati pressure

For its part, the UAE embassy in Washington welcomed Biden’s speech, and said in a tweet that “the issue is clear. The firing of ballistic and cruise missiles at civilian targets, the continuation of aggression, and the diversion of aid from the Yemeni people.”

Axios website had quoted an Emirati official as saying that the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, asked his American counterpart, Anthony Blinken, in a phone call, on Monday, to re-list the Houthi group on the terrorist list, after the Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi.

The Emirati embassy in Washington also indicated that the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, reiterated the request in a meeting with Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser, and during phone calls with a number of members of Congress.

The embassy also noted that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed had a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the same issue.

A number of senior supporters of the UAE in Washington entered the line in demanding the Biden administration to classify the Houthi group as a “terrorist group.” Commenting on the Houthi attacks on Abu Dhabi, Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and close to the Israel lobby, tweeted, “I see strong rationale for reclassifying the Houthi group in Yemen as a terrorist organization. Counter-terrorism, humanitarian goals and the pursuit of both.

“This practically means that the Biden administration should designate the Houthis as a terrorist group and must find practical and legal solutions to provide basic goods to Yemenis in need regardless of politics. The Houthis should not be able to use Yemen’s humanitarian plight as a shield to protect them,” Satloff added.

While the Republican Representative from Florida, Michael Waltz, considered that “the Houthis have only escalated their attacks since Biden removed them from the list of terrorists. They attacked our embassy in Yemen and now they are attacking our Emirati allies, all with the support of Iran, while begging American negotiators are heading to Iran to return to the Iran nuclear deal.”

big dilemma

David Mack, the former US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and currently an expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, considered that the United States faces a major dilemma after the Houthi group launched the recent attacks inside Emirati territory.

Mac told Al Jazeera Net, “The United States has a desire to support a country that brings together a wide range of important common interests, at the same time Washington does not want to contribute to causing more harm to Yemeni civilians who are stuck in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

For his part, Gulf affairs expert, Samuel Ramani, puts the National Security Adviser’s description of the Houthi attack on the UAE as a “terrorist attack” within a broader framework of negotiations between Washington and Tehran on the nuclear agreement in Vienna.

Ramani considered that “negotiations with Iran and the negative effects on aid to Yemen could prevent Biden from conceding to UAE pressure to list the Houthis as a terrorist group.”

Ambassador Mac said, “The Biden administration highly values ​​its good relations with the UAE and does not want to see the UAE’s security jeopardized by the attacks. The loss of life in the recent attacks, for which the Houthis claimed responsibility, touched a sensitive chord in Washington, while While there are critics of the UAE government on human rights grounds, very few are willing to side with the Houthis at this point.”

On the other hand, Mac noted that Washington is also aware that “last year the UAE has moved somewhat away from Saudi Arabia with regard to Yemen and has not participated in military measures against the port of Hodeidah, which is considered a vital port to save Yemeni civilians from starvation. However, the repatriation of the Houthis to the US terrorism list, which may lead to sanctions that impede easy access to the port.”

Ambassador Mac believes that the Biden administration will “send strong warnings to the Houthis, but the activation of the sanctions that may result from designating them as a terrorist group will be carried out with great caution.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.