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How will U.S. designation of Houthis as "terrorists" impact war-ravaged Yemen?

(Xinhua)    09:25, January 13, 2021

ADEN, Yemen, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. State Department would notify the Congress of its intent to designate Yemen's Houthi group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

In a late Sunday statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he also intended to designate three leaders of the Iran-backed group as "specially designated global terrorists."

According to the statement, these designations will be implemented on Jan. 19, one day before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

"Terrorist designations of Houthis" in Yemen confronts its "terrorist activity" and seeks to deter further "malign activity" by the Iranian regime in the region, according to Pompeo.

However, the United Nations and Yemeni analysts noted that this move would complicate the UN-brokered peace plan and international aid efforts in the impoverished Arab country.

"It's clear that the decision is likely to have serious humanitarian and political repercussions," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said at the regular press briefing on Monday.

Dujarric called for the U.S. to ensure that licenses and exemptions are granted, so that humanitarian assistance continues to reach the people who need it, and the private sector can continue to function in order to stave off complete economic collapse and large-scale famine.

Yemen's internationally-recognized government blamed the Houthis of "causing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world that has affected millions of innocent Yemenis."

The government clarified that the designation of Houthis as "terrorists should be viewed as an effective tool to stop their deplorable behavior, and whose application is not designed to negatively impact the conduct of relief and humanitarian operations."

On the other side, Dhaif-Allah Shami, the official spokesman of the unrecognized Houthi government in Sanaa, said that "talking about the effects of the American decision on international aid is not to the extent that they depict. We mainly depend on our God and on what our land produces."

Abdul-Salam Mohamad, chairman of Abaad Studies and Research Center, told Xinhua that there will be serious economic and humanitarian consequences for Washington's decision as the Houthis largely control over activities of relief organizations and commercial companies in the country's northern provinces.

Following the designation decision, the humanitarian organizations and commercial companies will stop dealing with the Houthi authorities in northern Yemen for fear of being involved in supporting a "terrorist" group, he said.

He continued, "but there are many other options that the Yemeni government will take in cooperation with the international community to alleviate these repercussions."

Abdul-Rahman Barman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and director of the American Center for Justice, believes that Washington's decision will cause ramifications and he also expected that similar international decisions might be followed by other countries designating Houthis as "terrorists."

Barman told Xinhua that "after Washington's decision, there will be tightened ban and serious military supervision will be imposed to prevent smuggling weapons to the Houthis in Yemen."

He said that "this designation will be in the interest of Yemen's government and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, as it will positively serve them through giving the anti-Houthi factions more justification as well as motivation to continue military operations against the rebels."

Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab coalition that intervened militarily in Yemen and began with carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis since March 2015, in support of the Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his internationally-recognized government.

For Ali bin Hadi, a retired military expert and observer based in the southern port city of Aden, the prominent Houthi leaders are already under UN sanctions and won't be largely affected by Washington's decision aimed at labeling their rebel group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

"Sanctions including an international travel ban and assets freezing will leave no notable impact on the rebel group's leaders who largely don't travel abroad and also have no international assets to freeze by the U.S.," said the Yemeni observer.

He said that "the Houthi leaders have many alternative ways to insulate themselves from impacts caused by sanctions of the U.S. or the UN, but the ordinary Yemeni people will be largely devastated by such international decisions."

Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized control of several northern provinces and forced the internationally-recognized government of Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.

The six-year-old war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced 4 million and pushed Yemen to the brink of starvation.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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