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US may remove Houthis from terror list if Red Sea attacks cease

April 4, 2024 at 11:57 am

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking takes part in a conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on March 30, 2022 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images]

The US is considering the removal of Yemen’s Ansarallah movement (the Houthis) from its list of designated terrorist organisations in exchange for an end to attacks on Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The naval operations carried out by the Houthi-aligned armed forces in support of the people of Gaza have recently expanded as far as the Indian Ocean.

Yesterday, Tim Lenderking, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for Yemen, told reporters in an online press briefing that “We favour a diplomatic solution. We know that there is no military solution.”

Speaking from Muscat, the capital of regional mediator Oman, Lenderking said he held talks with Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al-Busaidi, after meeting with officials in Saudi Arabia the day before.

“We discussed steps to secure Houthis deescalation and renew focus on securing peace for the Yemeni people,” he told reporters.

Asked by Bloomberg News after the briefing if Washington was offering the Houthis a quid pro quo to end their attacks on ships in return for revoking the designation, Lenderking said: “We would certainly study that but not assume it’s an automatic thing.”

READ: US official: We reduced some of the Houthis’ capabilities

The Houthis were re-designated as a terrorist organisation by the Biden administration in January, following US and British air strikes against Yemen, in order to “protect global shipping.” A US-led coalition launched to protect shipping in the Red Sea has failed to deter the naval operations against Israel-bound ships.

Shortly after his inauguration in 2021, President Biden lifted the Trump-era terrorist designation of the Houthis to ease humanitarian efforts in Yemen. However, the Biden administration chose not to relist the Houthis as a “foreign terrorism organisation,” opting instead for the current “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” label.

In a speech yesterday, the leader of the Ansarallah movement, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi vowed to continue their operations in solidarity with Palestine, stating: “Since the Battle of Al-Aqsa Flood began [7 October 2023], we supported [Palestine] with everything we can, and we are constantly striving to develop our capabilities.”

“We will not compromise our position on the Palestinian issue and will not back down from it,” he added, pledging to continue to support and “strengthen cooperation and improve performance and action until the promised victory.”

READ: New Houthi-issued 100 riyal coin deepens economic divide in Yemen