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UN urges US to drop Houthi terrorist designation

15th Jan 2021
UN urges US to drop Houthi terrorist designation

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA): The UN urged the Trump administration on Thursday to reverse its decision to label Yemen’s Houthi [Ansar Allah]  rebels as a terror group, warning the move could exacerbate the country’s dire humanitarian crisis.

The UN’s aid chief Mark Lowcok told the Security Council the decision will push the impoverished nation into “a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years.”

Yemen, which has been locked in a civil conflict exacerbated by regional interests since 2014, imports 90% of its food through commercial channels. The Houthis control commerce in areas they govern.

The US announced the decision, which will take effect on President Donald Trump’s last full day in office next Tuesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation is intended to hold the rebel group “accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”

The Houthis are the de facto authority across a wide swath of the badly-impoverished and food scarce nation, and concerns have mounted that designating the group as a terror organization could hinder the distribution of badly-needed aid during the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Aware of repeated concerns voiced by the UN and humanitarian groups, Pompeo said the US would issue licenses to exempt “certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.”

Lowcock said that plan is insufficient to prevent the looming humanitarian fallout from the US decision.

“Aid agencies give people vouchers or cash to buy commercially imported food in the market. Aid agencies cannot – they simply cannot – replace the commercial import system,” said Lowcock. “What this means is that what the commercial importers do is the single biggest determinant of life and death in Yemen.”

International charities have condemned Pompeo’s move designating Houthis as a terrorist organisation.
Refugees International’s Vice President for Programs and Policy Hardin Lang said in a statement:“The Trump administration’s decision to designate the Houthi movement in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is both reckless and destructive.
“Coming just days before Trump leaves office, the designation will complicate diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen and will disrupt relief efforts for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Particularly alarming are reports that Secretary Pompeo is moving forward before finalizing waives and licenses that would allow humanitarian aid to continue to flow. If true, it is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible decision.
“The litmus test for U.S. policy on Yemen is simple: does it help end the conflict, or keep alive the millions of suffering Yemenis? The designation fails on both counts.”President-elect Biden and his team will need to move quickly to roll back this decision. The people of Yemen have endured enough. Ending their suffering must start on day one.”

 

International Rescue Committee said Yemen, which is facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, we fear that the designation will make effective and efficient delivery of humanitarian aid all but impossible.”

David Miliband, President and CEO at IRC, said, “This is pure diplomatic vandalism. After four years of a failed war strategy that has created the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe, the last thing the Yemeni people need is further interruption of aid and economic flows. This policy, in the name of tying up the Houthis, will actually tie up the aid community and international diplomacy.”

As such, the IRC is calling on the U.S. government to reverse course immediately on this designation as the only way to save lives and avoid more suffering and death.

“Failing that, President-Elect Biden and his team have made clear that they recognize that Yemen is a festering political and humanitarian crisis requiring urgent attention. To that end, a reversal of the policy announced today, and the war strategy, should be an immediate priority on taking office.”

Yemen has been beset by violence and instability since 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital of Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the conflict has claimed 233,000 lives.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo: Yemeni babies receive treatment at Sabeen Hospital on January 13, 2021 in Sana’a, Yemen. Yemen was experiencing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises, the situation in the country worsened in 2020 due to civil war, famine and the new type of coronavirus. Photographer: Mohammed Hamoud/AA]

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