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America and the Problem of Houthi Terrorism

The frequency of Houthi attacks with missiles and drones on civilian targets has increased in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two targets that the Houthi military spokesman described as sensitive and symbolic. With it, voices rose in the United Nations and in many countries, especially in the US Congress, calling for the movement to be designated as a terrorist organization. The response provided by the White House was vague and brief, suggesting that the matter was under consideration. Meanwhile, it has become abundantly clear that the US State Department can easily pursue this designation for a wide host of reasons, including the fact that the Houthis turned down all international initiatives for a peaceful resolution to the war, as well as cease-fire initiatives presented by the United States itself in coordination with Oman. Further, the Houthi movement maintains a close relationship with Iran in an effort to destabilize the security of the country. The stability of the region and the escalation of attacks against civilian targets such as airports, oil production fields, fuel depots, and inhabited places, all strengthen the case for designating the group a terror group. Proponents of this measure see its immediate necessity. As you might recall, US President Joe Biden removed the Houthis from the terror list shortly after stepping into office with the aim of encouraging its leadership to engage in peaceful negotiations. Another group of Americans looks at this issue from a different angle, according to which placing the movement on the list would block any future American attempt to broker a cease-fire in the Gulf. Further, such a step could provide the movement’s supporters with more influence and may motivate it to further destabilize the region. As a middle point, they prefer to provide more support to the affected allies, exert more political and moral pressure on the movement, and place a greater effort on surveilling and besieging the roads and seaports through which components of Iranian drones and missiles reach Houthi hands. It is well known that the mere placement of a party, as a person, institution, state, or organization, on the US terrorism list has a direct impact on the positions of many other countries and international institutions, which tend to directly follow suit. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is weighing both options carefully. –Hassan Abu Talib (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)