US set to designate Iran-backed Houthi militia as terrorist organization

The Trump administration is set to designate the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization in the coming days, according to sources familiar with the decision.

But a group of senators is trying to push back on the decision, saying that such a move would make it harder to negotiate a peace agreement.

Nevertheless, the outgoing US administration is expected to continue and even escalate its maximum pressure campaign on Iran and its proxies in its final weeks at the White House.

US officials do not publicly preview sanctions designations, but administration officials have confirmed to Al Arabiya English that the move is “imminent.”

Foreign Policy first reported the anticipated move, although it remains unclear whether the entire militia will be sanctioned or just specific leaders and allies.

A senior US official traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week to the Middle East also remained tight-lipped about the decision. But the official told reporters: “We would hope that the Houthis would negotiate in good faith ... with UN representative Martin Griffith towards finding a political solution for the war in Yemen.”

The Trump administration and State Department have been looking at ways to grant exceptions or permission for humanitarian aid to continue flowing into the war-torn country without facing the threat of sanctions.

The Trump administration hopes such a move would pressure the Houthis to negotiate a political settlement with the local government to end the yearslong war.

DeLozier said the administration believes that this designation would “create some leverage” between the Arab coalition and the Iran-backed Houthis in the future.

Early Monday, the Houthis launched a missile at a petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah, causing a fire in a fuel tank. The fire was extinguished, and there were no injuries or casualties due to the attack.

Saudi Arabia has been targeted with dozens of ballistic missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis since last year. This included a devastating strike on Aramco’s facilities in the country’s east, which temporarily knocked out half the kingdom’s crude output.

- with AFP