Within the first few weeks of the Biden administration, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the U.S. government was revoking the terrorist designations of Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, in Yemen. 

The administration had stated that the terrible humanitarian situation in Yemen was a factor in revoking the designation since “the designations [sic] could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.” 

However, the move was more of a reversal of the Trump administration’s Iran policy. Tehran has heavily supported the Houthi rebels in Yemen as they try to take control of the country while launching drone and rocket attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and international airports. 

But while the Houthis are no longer on the list of terrorist organizations, Washington continues to sanction their leaders “especially those responsible for explosive boat attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea and UAV and missile attacks into Saudi Arabia” because of their ties to the ayatollahs in Tehran.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have been battling the Saudi-led coalition for the past six years to gain control of the country. (File photo)

So, Washington is now sanctioning Houthi leaders for worsening the same crisis it said it was easing by revoking the terrorist designation. If it sounds confusing, it should.

The latest designations were issued on May 20, when Secretary Blinken announced that “two senior leaders of Houthi forces in Yemen” Muhammad Abd Al-Karim al-Ghamari and Yusuf al-Madani had been designated as terrorists due to their involvement “in military offensives that exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, pose a dire threat to civilians, and destabilize Yemen.”

“The Marib offensive is exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, as it puts approximately one million vulnerable internally displaced people at risk of being displaced yet again, threatens to overwhelm an already stretched humanitarian response, and is triggering broader escalation,” Secretary Blinken announced on Thursday. 

The U.S. also sent conflicting signals when U.S. Special Envoy on Yemen Tim Lenderking said on May 20 that the Houthis should de-escalate and engage seriously with U.S. and UN ceasefire efforts, while also urging the Saudi-led coalition to remove restrictions on all Yemeni ports and airports to ease what the UN says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.