The Case for Designating the Houthis a Foreign Terrorist Organization

Updated: March 22, 2022

On three separate occasions in January 2022, Houthi terrorists unleashed a barrage of more than a dozen ballistic and cruise missiles plus weaponized drones against civilian sites across the UAE. UAE and US air defenses prevented mass casualties, though the strikes still killed three individuals and injured six. The Houthi terror wave was aimed at the UAE, but it affected the US and global community. The UAE is home to more than 8 million foreign residents from nearly every country on Earth, including 65,000 Americans. 

The UAE urges the US to return the Houthi separatist extremist group in Yemen to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. This designation will help disrupt illicit financial and weapons networks feeding the Houthi terror machine. It will add to mounting pressure on the Houthis to engage in UN-led peace efforts that can end hostilities in a war that has gone on far too long. Properly applied, returning the Houthis to the US terror list will not stop critical humanitarian aid from reaching the Yemeni people.

Together, we must be clear-eyed about the threat the Houthis pose. There is no ambiguity here. If you talk like a terrorist, act like a terrorist and kill like a terrorist, then you are a terrorist.

The Houthis Are Terrorists Under US Law

The Houthis have essentially designated themselves as terrorists – the US should simply affirm the existing Houthi position.

The Houthis are terrorists under US law

The Houthis in their Own Words – They Talk Like Terrorists

The Houthi movement is rooted in radicalized and revolutionary ideology. Their call to arms: “Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews,” is a nine-word terrorist manifesto driving their violent and conspiratorial worldview. Houthi diatribes are anti-American, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. This hateful language is a consistent hallmark of Houthi leadership that has persisted for many years.

The Houthi terror strikes on the UAE in January proved these words are not empty threats.  Their own statements following the attacks make clear their violent intentions against the UAE, the international community, and US interests.

Houthi militia leaders at the highest levels make the case themselves that the Houthis are a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Houthi Military Spokesman Brigadier-General Yahya Sare’e

“The Armed Forces (Houthis) warn foreign companies, the citizens, and all the residents who live in the Emirati enemy state, they will not hesitate to expand their bank of targets, so that it includes more important facilities and sites in the coming days. They should stay away from the vital facilities and sites, for their own safety.”

January 17, 2022

Houthi Brigadier-General Abdul Ghani Al-Zubaidi

“We have the power, the will, and the determination to strike in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia. If it turns out that the Americans attacked in Yemen, or if they declare that they did, we will target the American interests wherever they may be.”

January 17, 2022

Houthi Deputy Minister of Information Nasr Al-Din Amer

“We have a great desire to fight the Jews, because of the Quranic verses and divine decrees that order us to fight the Jews. We have this desire to kill the Jews or be killed by them. This is our desire, our dream, since we set forth on this path. All the Yemenis emerge from this Quranic, religious culture. So the Zionists pose no threat to us. Rather, we see this as a great opportunity to fulfill our desire to confront them.”

January 24, 2022

The Houthis in Their Own Actions – They Act Like Terrorists

The Houthi militia’s January attacks against civilians in the UAE represent a year of escalating terror and violence. 

Effective February 16, 2021, less than one month after assuming office, the Biden Administration revoked the Houthis’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Secretary of State Blinken remarked this decision was “intended to ensure that relevant US policies do not impede (humanitarian) assistance” to the Yemeni people.

A Timeline of Houthi Terrorism

The Center for Strategic and International Studies observed the “number of Houthis attacks against predominantly civilian targets in Saudi Arabia doubled over the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.”

  • On September 11, 2021, the Houthis fired a ballistic missile and explosive-laden drones at the port city of Mocha, destroying humanitarian aid warehouses.
  • On January 3, 2022, the Houthis seized a UAE ship carrying medical supplies along with its crew.
  • On January 17, 2022, the Houthis launched another round of missile strikes against Abu Dhabi. UAE and US air defense systems neutralized the incoming threat. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted that the Houthi attacks “...threatened US and Emirati armed forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base.  
  • On January 24, 2022, the Houthis launched another round of missile strikes against Abu Dhabi. UAE and US air defense systems neutralized the incoming threat.
  • On January 30, The UN Security Council Expert Panel on Yemen noted: “The Panel received a list of 1,406 children recruited by the Houthis who died on the battlefield in 2020. The Panel also received a list of 562 children recruited by the Houthis who died on the battlefield between January and May 2021. They were aged between ten and 17 years old...”
  • On January 31, 2022, the Houthis launched a missile against Abu Dhabi, while Israeli President Isaac Herzog began his first ever visit to the UAE.
  • On two occasions in March 2021, the Houthis launched multiple drone and missile attacks against key Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

The Obama, Trump and Biden Administrations Agree - The Houthis are Terrorists

Throughout the last decade and spanning three presidential administrations, two Democratic and one Republican, broad consensus exists that the Houthis are responsible for causing widespread instability and chaos.

The Biden Administration

When the Biden Administration revoked the Houthis’ FTO designation in February 2021, Secretary of State Blinken was simultaneously uncompromising in rebuking the militia.

He stated: “The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s (the Houthis) malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on December 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen.”

The Trump Administration

In January 2021, when the Trump Administration designated the Houthis as an FTO in the aftermath of the tragic terror attack on the Aden airport, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo observed: “If Ansarallah (Houthis) did not behave like a terrorist organization, we would not designate it as an FTO. It has led a brutal campaign that has killed many people, continues to destabilize the region, and denies Yemenis a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country.”

The Obama Administration

The Obama Administration repeatedly condemned the Houthis for their “provocative and destabilizing incitement.”

In 2016, President Obama authorized US Armed Forces missile strikes on radar facilities in Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen following anti-ship cruise missile launches perpetrated by the Houthis that threatened US Navy warships in international waters on the Red Sea.

The Humanitarian Imperative Remains

Despite the Houthi attacks against Abu Dhabi, the UAE government remains steadfastly committed to providing humanitarian assistance to Yemen in support of education in schools, medical relief, food and water delivery, as well as energy and transportation needs. The UAE continues to work in partnership with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross and other relief agencies to support this effort. 

Since 2015, the UAE has responded to the Yemen crisis by delivering over $6.25 billion in humanitarian assistance. In 2021, the UAE provided $230 million to support international programs to meet the medical, nutritional and food security needs of the country through the UN system. This aid will meet the food needs of 6 million Yemenis, including 1 million children.

Returning the Houthis to the terror list will not impede critical aid flows

UAE humanitarian aid