The US will reclassify the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group at the end of next week if strikes on ships in the Red Sea to not cease but the decision could be reversed, the American ambassador to Yemen said on Friday.
“The designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group will take effect February 16, but it can be reviewed if the Houthi militia ceases their activities in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” Steven Fagin said in a post on X.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced in January that the US would once again designate the Houthis as a terrorist group after they “engaged in unprecedented attacks against United States military forces and international maritime vessels”.
The designation aims to disrupt funding for the group and “hold them accountable for their actions”.
The Houthis, who are allied with Hamas, began attacking ships in the Red Sea after Israel began its war in Gaza.
The US delisted the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation and as specially designated global terrorists in February 2021, as President Joe Biden's administration sought to make it easier to get aid into Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis has pushed millions to the brink of starvation.
The Houthis seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2015 amid a bloody civil war that continues today, although a fragile, unofficial truce has held since a UN-brokered ceasefire ended in October 2022.
It is not yet clear if the designation will deter Houthi operations and attacks, as US strikes have yet to degrade its capabilities thus far.
“In fact, this group feeds off of actions like that,” Middle East Institute non-resident scholar Nadwa Al Dawsari told The National in January.
The group mocked the designation when Mr Sullivan first announced the move, saying it “no longer has impact”.