WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday that he will revoke—effective Feb. 16—designations of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist group.
The decision, reversing the former Trump administration’s blacklisting of the Houthis, is part of a policy shift by U.S. President Joe Biden aimed at easing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and intensifying diplomacy to end Yemen’s grueling civil war.
“This decision is a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Blinken said in a statement.
The war pits the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement against Yemen’s internationally recognized government backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
The Biden administration, other governments, the United Nations, and aid organizations shared fears that the sanctions imposed on the Houthis under the designations could strangle food deliveries just as the threat of major famine is rising.
Blinken, however, appeared to signal limits to U.S. tolerance of the Houthi movement. He said three of its leaders—Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim—will remain subject to U.S. sanctions.
He also said Washington would continue to “closely monitor” the activities of the movement and its leaders and is “actively identifying” new sanctions targets, especially those responsible for attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia.
“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s malign actions,” Blinken said, using a term by which the Houthi movement also is known. “Ansarallah’s actions and intransigence prolong this conflict and exact serious humanitarian costs.”
By Jonathan Landay and Daphne Psaledakis