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The Biden administration is considering reclassifying Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in light of their escalating attacks, particularly against Israel and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

This consideration represents a potential reversal of a Trump-era policy that President Biden rescinded in February 2021. The initial removal of the FTO label from the Houthis was driven by concerns that it would hinder humanitarian aid to millions of Yemenis affected by civil war.

Despite the administration’s reluctance to commit to the FTO label, recent events have intensified pressure from Congress for a tougher stance against the Houthis. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated, “Nothing to update yet on the FTO designation. We’re still in the process of reviewing it.”

Various former lawmakers have begun debating the practical impact of the FTO designation. Dave Harden, a former senior State Department official, suggests that the designation might not significantly affect the Houthis, who operate outside the Western economic system. Conversely, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation could disrupt financial support to the group and warn international entities against engaging with them, risking access to the US financial system.

The Houthis have justified their attacks, claiming they are targeting Israeli-linked ships or vessels transporting equipment to Israel.


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