Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement welcomed the Biden Administration’s decision to cancel the US State Department’s recent designation of it as a terrorist organization.
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The American decision, an effort to help control the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country, was announced on Friday, one day after President Joe Biden ended US support for the Saudi-led military campaign against the Houthis.
Meanwhile, an online campaign featuring the hashtag #StopHouthiTerrorismInYemen, launched by Yemeni activists on Twitter, has been well underway since the beginning of the year.
The Houthi movement, officially called Ansar Allah, or Supporters of God, controls most of northern Yemen and most of the civilian population, and is the de facto authority in the country. It has been engaged since September 2014 in a multi-sided civil war with the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who currently spends much of his time in exile in Saudi Arabia.
Abdul Elah Hajar, a political adviser to the Supreme Political Council − the executive body formed by the Houthi movement to rule the country, welcomed the decision to drop the terrorist designation. It is a good step toward peace in Yemen, he said, adding that “President Joe Biden’s administration should implement these decisions in practice by stopping the war and breaking the siege of Yemen.”
Hussein al-Ezzi, Ansar Allah’s deputy foreign minister, told The Media Line that “canceling the decision, if and when it happens, is a positive step toward peace in Yemen.”
“It’s in the best interest of all parties to the Yemeni crisis to cancel the designation decision,” Ezzi said.
“The previous [US] administration was placed in a moral dilemma before the entire world by this decision while the attacks on human rights and the unjust besiegement of the people of Yemen continue,” he added.
The Biden Administration, by reviewing and canceling past decisions, was working to overcome this dilemma, Ezzi said, adding that Ansar Allah has become a “party with significant political and popular weight,” and should be treated as such.
Hadi’s internationally recognized government did not issue an official statement regarding the cancellation of the terrorist designation.
However, The Media Line spoke with Yasser Hassani, a staff member from the president’s office, to get the government’s perspective on the issue.
Hassani described the designation’s cancellation as “an unsuccessful decision.”
“The militia did not take any real steps [toward peace] while the US administration planned to cancel the designation decision, and continued its war and its shelling of the Marib Governorate” – the only part of northern Yemen not under Ansar Allah’s control, as well as the shelling of other governorates, he said.
Hassani called on the international community to take into account “the Houthis’ attacks against civilians” in Yemen when deciding whether to designate the movement as a terrorist organization.
Muammar al-Eryani, the government’s minister of information, culture and tourism, said that canceling the decision to designate the de facto authority as a terrorist group “will send the wrong message to the Houthis and whoever supports them to continue their escalation and crimes against civilians.”
“Canceling the decision will contribute to complicating the Yemeni crisis and protracting the duration of the coup,” the minister added, in a statement reported by the official Saba News Agency.
Abdullah Sallam, an author, activist and political analyst, told the The Media Line that in light of the Biden Administration’s recent decisions and actions relating to the conflict, “Yemen is now closer to peace than it is to war.”
“Based on the early decisions, the Biden Administration provided a plan to stop exporting weapons to the KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], and at a later time, stopped the logistical and intelligence support provided to Saudi Arabia with regards to the war,” he added.
The decision to designate the de facto authority as a terrorist group put the peace process at risk, and the conflict could have taken a turn for the worse, Sallam said.
“Ansar Allah started, after the prior decision to designate it as a terrorist group, holding seminars, protests and demonstrations through which it aimed to send a message that it has a broad base of supporters,” he continued.
“The Houthis must now show real initiatives with regard to the peace process, and the IRG [internationally recognized government] must do the same,” he said.