Houthis in the terror net, Iran put on notice

Both the Houthis and Hezbollah have sowed divisions and destroyed the social fabric of the very countries they operate in.

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Published: Mon 11 Jan 2021, 11:38 PM

The US decision to designate the Houthi militia in Yemen as a terrorist organisation is the right step in checking its influence in the country and the region. It also serves to choke the organisation’s ability to raise funds for its brand of violence that has brought ruin on the country and its people while raising fears that the humanitarian crisis could worsen if the Houthis turn their ire on innocent civilians.

For years the Houthis have been propped up by the Iranian regime that fuels a regional war economy that includes Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both the Houthis and Hezbollah have sowed divisions and destroyed the social fabric of the very countries they operate in. Sectarian strife is allowed to fester and spread as people stare at wastelands while terrorists mutate into politicians. These terrorist groups have sunk institutions and have been sources of instability in countries that have some of the highest rates of poverty and economic deprivation in the world. Yemen is, in fact, the poorest country in the Middle East. It is the setting for what many analysts see as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster that has only been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Six years of bloodshed has left 30 million people on the streets and in dire need of humanitarian aid. Some estimates put the deaths at 112,000, but the toll could be higher.

The US realises that designating the Houthis as a terrorist organisation could heap more misery on ordinary Houthis but the decision had to be made to push back against Tehran and its proxies before it’s too late. “We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” said outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This could include special licences by the US Treasury to allow aid into Yemen. Humanitarian organisations will also be permitted to work there but the US cannot guarantee their security as it has a negligible troop presence, save as advisers to forces fighting the Iranian proxy. The Houthis retain control of North Yemen and its capital Sanaa while a coalition government backed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt are in the south. Only recently, the Houthis were responsible for a blast in the southern port of Aden, the capital of the recognised government, that killed scores of people including journalists.

The US government’s designation of the terrorist group, though late and coming as it does in the last days of an embattled presidency, gives the Arab and Gulf countries tackling Iranian proxies like the Houthis and Hezbollah diplomatic ammunition they need to bring Tehran to the negotiating table. Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region is unacceptable and the end of the war economy is nigh.

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