Trump administration pressure to label the Houthi group backed by Iran’s Yemen as a terrorist organization would be “deeply damaging” to US national security, say former US diplomats and State Department officials.
In a letter to the Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRomney calls for a response “of a similar or greater magnitude” to Russia’s hack Nearly 200 organizations allegedly hacked by Russia: cyber security firm Trump minimizes the impact of the hack, wonders if Russia involves MORE sent on Sunday, 20 former senior officials with a focus on US Middle East policy called on the administration to “abandon plans” to label Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.
They warn that such a move would be seen as politically motivated and “undermine the credibility of US counterterrorism programs and policies.”
“To be clear, we have no sympathy for the houthi movement and we do not accept its actions,” wrote the signatories, which include almost every former US ambassador to Yemen, former anti-terrorism coordinators at the State Department and former senior career officials. republican as well as democratic administrations.
“That being said, we do not believe that the Houthi movement meets the definition of a foreign terrorist organization, nor do we believe that the designation will promote US national security interests.”
The Trump administration is weighing the designation for the insurgent military group engaged in a six-year civil war against the Saudi-led coalition that supports the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Such a move would be part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. President TrumpDonald Trump Trump signs bill extending government funding for 24 hours Congress passes one-day stop-gap law ahead of deadline What’s in the 0 billion coronavirus aid bill MORE rejected an effort by Congress in April 2019 to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
The signatories say the designation would hamper the international community’s efforts to help save the country suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in history, including the delivery of food and medicine to at least 70 percent of the Houthi-controlled Yemeni population.
They also warn that it would harm international efforts to negotiate a political solution to the crisis.
“We urge the administration not to take this step, which we believe would profoundly harm US national security interests, including the fight against terrorism and, in particular, innocent civilians in Yemen,” the signatories wrote.
“Instead, we encourage the administration to double its support for the UN-led peace process. US support can provide a critical impetus to efforts to persuade the parties to end the fighting, implement a permanent and lasting ceasefire, and begin political reconciliation that will allow Yemenis to finally address the root causes of the current conflict. “
The crisis in Yemen is one of the darkest spots in the international community, with UN officials warning earlier this month that atrocities there could be war crimes.
The United Nations humanitarian office said on December 3 that at least 230,000 Yemenis had died in the war, including 131,000 due to a lack of food, health services and infrastructure. More than 3,000 children were killed and 1,500 civilian casualties were reported in the first nine months of 2020.
On December 11, World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri called the country a “stopwatch bomb” with 16 million people unable to get food.