The American government of Donald Trump announced Sunday evening, ten days before the end of his mandate, that it would put the Houthi rebels of Yemen on its blacklist of “terrorist” groups, which according to international organizations risks aggravate the humanitarian crisis.
The head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo explained that he would notify Congress of this decision in order to strengthen the “deterrence against the harmful activities of the Iranian regime”, support of the Yemeni rebel group against the government supported by a coalition led by the Saudi Arabia ally of Washington.
Three Houthi leaders are also blacklisted, including their main leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi.
These sanctions will come into effect on January 19, the day before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
They aim to hold the Houthis, who control the capital Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, “accountable for their terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilians, infrastructure and shipping,” said Mike Pompeo in a statement released overnight.
The announcement was expected since the November 3 presidential election in the United States. Several non-governmental organizations and international institutions feared that the defeated President Trump would seek to strike a diplomatic blow against Iran, his sworn enemy in the Middle East, before Joe Biden arrived at the White House , who wishes to resume dialogue with Tehran.
According to these organizations, this decision risks causing a paralysis of the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen. Having contact with Houthi officials, handling taxes, using the banking system, paying medical staff, buying food and fuel … all of this risks being hampered by such an American measure.
“Worst famine” in the world
After more than five years of war, Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula where 80% of the population now depends on international aid, is already in the grip of what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. world.
And he is now “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has known for decades”, warned United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the end of November, urging Washington “not to rock the boat”.
These calls were therefore only very partially heard by the Trump administration, determined to the end to go against the international consensus and play the unilateral card.
“The United States recognizes that there are concerns about the impact these designations will have on the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” said Mike Pompeo. “We plan to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activities and imports,” he added.
The scope of the exemptions that will be granted in this sense will therefore be closely scrutinized.
Presenting the strategy of his government as having to promote efforts to achieve a “peaceful” solution, the outgoing Secretary of State assured of being ready “to work with United Nations officials and with international and non-governmental organizations” to minimize the consequences on the population.
As the threat loomed, the Houthis ruled in November that Donald Trump had no right to make such a decision after losing the presidential election.
“The elections are over and someone else has won (…) This man’s statements no longer have any meaning,” Sultan Al-Samee, deputy chairman of the Political Council, told AFP. ‘Ansarullah, the name of the Houthi movement.
“If he designates Ansarullah as a terrorist, it will come from an incompetent person who is going completely crazy,” he hammered.
A great ally of Washington in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has already classified the Houthis as a “terrorist” group in 2014 before taking the lead in March 2015 of a coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the rebels.