Repercussions of Washington's decision against the Houthis


Wed, 13-01-2021 03:10 PM, Aden

Ayad Qassem

The crisis in Yemen is entering a new turn with the United States designating the Yemeni Houthi group as a terrorist group, and designating three of its prominent leaders, including the leader of the group, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, as international terrorists, according to a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sunday evening.

This decision came two days after the visit of the United Nations envoy, Martin Griffiths, to Aden last Friday, during which he met government partiesز Griffiths was coming from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he met the Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Saudi officials, in an attempt to revive the negotiations of the "joint declaration", - between Houthis and the Yemeni government,-  led by Griffiths, to reach a comprehensive peace in the country, which has been torn apart by six years of war.

Fate of peace!

Regardless of the legal and ethical justifications cited by the American classification decision, the Houthis believe that this will undoubtedly complicate the efforts of the UN envoy and impede the peace process, according to the prominent leader of the group, Mohammad Al-Bukhaiti, in statements to Al-Jazeera.

Contrary to what Washington is planning, Al-Bakhiti said in a tweet on Twitter: "Soon America will discover the error of its calculations and that it has restricted itself and has given us greater legitimacy to confront its aggression. We are ready to face any escalation."

On the contrary, the new Yemeni parity government, which was the result of the Riyadh Agreement, is betting that this may push the Houthi group to submit to the voice of peace, stop its hand from continuing to kill civilians and stop its "terrorist" operations.

The new government welcomed the US decision: "We believe that all political and legal pressures on Houthis should continue to escalate and intensify, in order to create conditions conducive to a peaceful solution to the conflict, which aims to find a final solution to this tragic and protracted conflict in Yemen."

The powerful third party in Yemen, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), welcomed the US step, and "any step that would put an end to the practices of this group and other extremist terrorist groups."

The STC president, Major General Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi, was upset, in recent statements two days ago, to Sky News TV, that the UN envoy continued to ignore to STC and did not involve him in the "joint declaration" negotiations.

This American step would restore Griffiths' calculations and complicate his urgent efforts to conclude a political deal, without of participation of the most effective party and popular and military influence in SouthYemen, and the main partner in the parity government.

"There is no peace without the south," said the prominent military general, Al-Zubeidi.
Alternative options

After six years of military operations in Yemen, the Arab coalition has failed to subjugate the Houthi militia, which has greatly developed its military capabilities, with the support of Iran, and has expanded its geographical control over the lands of  North Yemen. Its ballistic and drone weapon has become a major threat to Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen.

The group launched numerous missile attacks during the past two years, targeting strategic military and economic installations inside the kingdom and inside Yemen, and killing dozens of civilians.

The US State Department statement considered the "cruel" missile attack that targeted Aden International Airport, last December 31, as clear evidence that justifies the classification of the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

The failure of the military decision, which cost the Saudi-led coalition hundreds of billions of dollars, due to its betting on the fragile "national army" forces of the government of Yemeni President Hadi in North Yemen, is the one that pushed the Trump administration, in its last days, to save its allies in the Gulf with this decision, with the aim of subjugating the Houthis and pushing them towards ending the war.

"This designation will lead to support and success of the existing political efforts and will force the leaders of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia to seriously return to the table of political consultations," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The decision is also a prominent message to Iran and its proxies. "The time has come for the Houthis to understand the message: stop coordination with Iran. Designate them as a terrorist organization is a message to the Iranian regime," State Department officials said in statements to  Al Arabiya TV.

It cannot be concluded that this classification decision would quickly subject the Houthis to the terms of the Riyadh-led coalition. USA had previously classified Iranian actors and Iranian proxies in the region with terrorism, but did not limit their threats.

On the other hand, this decision would confuse Iran's calculations in Yemen, and it might deepen divisions within the leadership of the Houthi group. The economic and humanitarian pressures resulting from this decision may push the Houthis to make more concessions.

Obstacles and complications

However, it is these economic and humanitarian pressures that have provoked condemnation by international and humanitarian organizations and bodies, warning at the same time of economic and humanitarian consequences that will affect the citizens who live in the territories of Houthi control, who constitute the majority of the Yemeni people.

Scott Paul, the humanitarian affairs official at the Oxfam charitable branch in the United States, appealed to President-elect Joe Biden to cancel this classification as soon as he took office, describing the US action as "counter-productive and dangerous," according to Reuters.

But even "the decision to retract the Houthi classification poses a challenge," says a report published by CNN on Monday. "This step will make it difficult for the incoming Biden administration to set a policy for Yemen," the US channel added.

After Washington's decision, the Houthis (Hassan Erlo's wing) may also escalate their military missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and Aden, as practical proof of the failure of the coalition and Washington's hopes for subjugating the group.

Despite the widespread popular satisfaction in Yemen with the American decision, and the Houthi opponents' aspiration to limit the group's influence, the results of this decision are linked to the position of the new US administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who pledged to end the war in Yemen and stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The results of this decision are also related to the ability of the Yemeni parity Government, in contrast to a successful and convincing model in managing the economic, humanitarian and service situation in the liberated governorates, and its ability to arrange its political file, which the "participation of the Southern Transitional Council to represent South", a decisive factor To strengthen its negotiating position in front of the Houthis.

Head of South24 Center for News and Studies