The United States is designating the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, after the Houthis are believed to be behind several recent attacks on oil tankers and oil facilities in the Middle East.
The U.S. Department of State will notify Congress it will designate Ansarallah—also referred to as the Houthis—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on January 19, Secretary Pompeo said. This would be the last day in office of the Trump Administration, which has been increasing pressure on Iran during its term.
“These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region. The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping,” Secretary Pompeo said in a statement.
“Terrorist designations of Ansarallah in Yemen confront its terrorist activity and seeks to deter further malign activity by the Iranian regime in the region,” he said on Twitter.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been essentially fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where the Saudis lead a military Arab coalition to “restore legitimacy” in the country, while the Houthi movement, which holds the capital Sanaa, is backed by Iran.
The Houthi rebels have often claimed they had hit oil infrastructure assets in Saudi Arabia, and have taken responsibility for several high-profile attacks in the region.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the September 2019 attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities that cut off 5 percent of daily global supply for weeks. But Saudi Arabia and the United States have said that it was Iran—and not the Houthis—who was responsible for the attack.
More recently, the Houthis said in November they had fired a missile against a target in the Saudi city of Jeddah and had hit it. Back then, Saudi Arabia confirmed, via its Saudi Press Agency, that there was an explosion at the petroleum products distribution terminal in Jeddah.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com