it is conceivable the biden team may actually get this one thing right

Tony Blinken pledges to ‘immediately’ review US terror designation of Houthis
Ali Harb, Middle East Eye, Jan 20 2021

The incoming US Sec State Tony Blinken has pledged to “immediately” review Washington’s designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, acknowledging that the decision to blacklist the group may worsen the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country. At a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Blinken rebuked the Houthis for overthrowing the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2015, but said designating them as a terror organisation has “achieved nothing” to advance peace in Yemen. Pompeo announced blacklisting the Yemeni group last week in a move largely seen as a push to complicate the incoming Biden administration’s foreign policy. Blinken told lawmakers on Tuesday regarding Pompeo’s decision:

The designation makes it even more difficult than it already is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who desperately need it. We would propose to review that immediately, to make sure that what we are doing is not impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance, even under these difficult circumstances.

Aid groups have been warning Washington against blacklisting the Houthis, expressing fear that the designation, which bars Americans from dealing financially with the group, would make it more difficult to deliver assistance to most Yemenis who live under the rebels’ control. The war in Yemen started in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition of regional countries, backed by the US, started a bombing campaign to restore Hadi’s government. Riyadh considers the Houthis to be Iranian proxies, but the Yemeni group denies receiving material support from Tehran. The conflict has killed more than 100k people, brought the already impoverished country to the verge of famine and caused an outbreak of preventable diseases in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Biden has pledged to end US support for the KSA’s war efforts amid growing ire towards Riyadh in Washington. Blinken reiterated that position on Tuesday, saying:

The president-elect has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and I think we will work on that in very short order.

The incoming top US diplomat who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in the coming weeks added that Biden plans to reevaluate Washington’s relationship with Riyadh in “its entirety” to realign the ties with US values and interests. Legislators quizzed Blinken on a range of issues on Tuesday, including a possible return to the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Iran, Blinken said Washington would return to the nuclear pact, then start negotiations about broader issues, including Tehran’s regional activities and ballistic missiles programme. The multilateral agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions against its economy. Trump nixed the agreement in 2018. Blinken said:

President-elect Biden will revive the JCPoA and use it as a platform, with our allies and partners who would once again be on the same side with us, to seek a longer and stronger agreement.

The incoming Sec State also renewed his previous criticism about the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani who was targeted by a US air strike in Baghdad early in 2020. While he stressed that “no-one is shedding a tear” for the Iranian general, he argued that his killing intensified tensions and attacks on US interests and allies in the region, saying:

I think, on balance, that that action actually left us less safe, not more safe.

Blinken voiced support for normalisation deals between Israel and Arab countries but said the administration would “take a hard look” at the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE, which accompanied Abu Dhabi’s decision to establish formal ties with the Israeli government. Blinken, a veteran diplomat with close ties to Biden, used familiar Washington language to address questions about Israel, voicing support for the two-state solution and pledging support for the Israeli government. Blinken said:

Let me start with this very basic proposition, which is that our commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct, and this is something that the president-elect feels very strongly.

He went on to say that a two state-solution would ensure Israel’s future as a “Jewish democratic state” while ensuring that Palestinians have a state of their own. Blinken also reaffirmed that the Biden administration will keep the US embassy in Jerusalem, answering affirmatively when asked whether he believes that the holy city is the capital of Israel. His remarks come a week after Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem released a report declaring Israel as an “apartheid” state operating to advance “the supremacy of the Jews over the Palestinians.”

Yemen’s Leningrad: The Unforeseen Consequences of the State Dept’s Houthi Designation
Ahmed Abd’ul-Karim, MintPress News, Jan 18 2021

Houthi supporters chant slogans during a demonstration outside the closed US embassy over its decision
to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization in Sanaa, Jan 18, 2021. Arabic on posters reads:
“America creates terrorism in the world.” Photo: Hani Mohammed/AP

The war-torn country of Yemen is in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world thanks in large part to a Saudi-led war fueled by American weapons. Now, as the war nears its six-year anniversary in March, any hopes for a diplomatic resolution have faded faster than the presidency of Donald Trump, whose outgoing administration recently announced plans to designate the Houthi rebels, the principal force battling both the Saudi-led Coalition and al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, as a foreign terrorist organization. The move effectively eliminates any ray of hope for the more than 24m people struggling for survival amid war, siege, famine, and countless diseases and epidemics, according to the UN. Pompeo said in a statement that the State Dept would notify Congress of its intent to designate Ansar Allah, known colloquially as the Houthis, as a foreign terrorist organization as well as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. Of note is the fact Ansar Allah does not own a single company, nor does it own a single bank account outside of Yemen. In fact, ranking members rarely even travel outside of the country’s borders. Pompeo’s announcement was met with alarm by the UN, international aid groups, and diplomats who warned that the move would further inflame the situation on the ground, upend any hope for peace talks and exacerbate the country’s humanitarian crisis. The UN warned of major repercussions for international assistance to a country with a “growing risk of famine.” Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Sec Gen for Humanitarian Affairs, said of the designation:

What is the likely humanitarian impact? The answer is a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years. Exemptions to allow aid agencies to deliver supplies, as suggested by Washington, will not be sufficient to avoid a famine. What would prevent it? A reversal of the decision.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric echoed that sentiment, warning:

The decision is likely to have serious humanitarian and political repercussions.

Dujarric was likely referring to the fact that the designation will likely dissuade third parties from engaging in any transactions with Houthi authorities for fear of US prosecution. It wasn’t just the UN that condemned the move either. David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee called the move “pure diplomatic vandalism,” adding:

The last thing the Yemeni people need is further interruption of aid and economic flows.

The International Rescue Committee had already ranked Yemen as the top crisis in the world at risk of deterioration in 2021 and said that 24m Yemenis are at catastrophic humanitarian risk following the designation of Ansar Allah. While the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the most active aid groups in Yemen, said that the US must ensure sanctions do not block aid from entering “a country already in the middle of a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.” Save the Children warned that the measures could “threaten the supply of lifesaving food, fuel, and medicine,” and French aid group Action Contre la Faim (ACF) declared that the designation would have “an immediate impact.” Not surprisingly, the decision will impact Ansar Allah-controlled areas of northern Yemen the most, but eh the effects will be felt across the entire country, delaying or even halting not only the import of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods but commercial goods as well, according to the UN. Yemen imports 90% of its food items and the new designation is likely to slow or even stop imports at a time when thousands are at risk of famine. The UN said:

The US government’s action today is likely to tip the scale towards economic meltdown, famine, and death.

To compare Pompeo’s decision to that of Adolf Hitler’s intentional starving of Leningrad is no exaggeration. Hitler launched a brutal siege against the 3m residents of Leningrad in 1941 in an effort to starve its civilians into submission in one of the most notorious and brutal crimes in history. In many ways, the State Dept’s decision is much worse and sets a far more dangerous precedent. In fact, WW2’s Siege of Leningrad stands as a chilling reminder of the toll that the Trump administration’s decision could potentially have on the civilian population in Yemen, particularly the 13m people who live in the north of the country. The designation of the Houthis was predictably met with ire from the group’s allies and supporters in Yemen and abroad. It is being seen as an attempt to balkanize the country and subject its western half to the sort of perpetual famine and suffering endured by nearby Somalia. There are also fears that the move will hamper the ability of the Houthis to combat Saudi-backed extremist forces in Yemen, especially AQAP and Daesh, allowing them to use Yemen and a launching group to plan and carry out terrorist operations inside the US and the EU, according to Yemeni security experts who spoke to MintPress. They said:

The environment in Yemen will become more encouraging for the prosperity of AQAP and Daesh after Washington’s decision against the Ansar Allah forces, who cleared most areas in the north country including al-Bayda province, a stronghold of AQAP.

The Houthi-led government in Sana’a, known as the National Salvation Government of the Republic (NSG) of Yemen said in a statement that Pompeo`s plan to designate Ansar Allah is an unprecedented act of hostility. Warning the international community and the countries sponsoring the peace process in Yemen of the consequences of the move, the NSG said:

We have the will to defend our country by taking appropriate steps towards the American decision if it takes place including reciprocity. The steadfastness of our people and their sincere bias towards the issues of the nation, particularly the Palestinian cause as well as the rejection of the normalization project, was not acceptable to the Trump administration.

Even some of Yemen’s political rivals in the country have come out against the designation. General People’s Congress Party, the largest political party in the country and the party of Saudi-backed President Abd’Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, said in a statement that the Trump administration’s decision will have major negative repercussions on peace and political settlement, and will complicate international efforts. The Nasserist Reform Organisation also strongly condemned the State Department’s decision, describing it as a hostile and irresponsible act aimed at serving the personal interest of presidents who struggle to stay in the White House. The Tribal Cohesion Council, the highest tribal body in Yemencalled on tribal leaders to mobilize fighters, saying:

We consider the decision as a source of pride showing, that Yemenis have become a challenge to them in the region.

The Houthis, for their part, have downplayed the impact of the decision, warning that it not only means that a peace deal can not be achieved but that the US could now be directly targeted by the group. The Trump administration’s assessment of the situation in Yemen, officials say, is flawed, as the Houthis have never threatened the US unlike AQAP, Daesh or the Taliban. And unlike those groups, the Houthis are well-armed with ballistic missiles, drones, and gunboats and Houthi attacks on the Saudi-led Coalition have always been retaliatory and not preemptive. Moreover, they warn, any US military action against the Houthis under the pretext of fighting terrorism will serve to gain the group even more supporters in the Middle East, as it is one of the few left in the Arab world to stand in opposition to Washington’s support for Israel’s internationally-recognized theft of Palestinian land. The Houthis see that policy as a major driving force in the US decision to designate them and maintain that it will serve to garner them even more popular support both inside of Yemen and across the Islamic and Arab world. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a leading member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council said in a series of tweets:

The Trump administration’s policy and actions are terrorist. We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration. We demand the formation of independent investigation committees for each crime committed in the country.

Ultimately, the decision to designate the Houthis seems aimed at stirring chaos in an already chaotic theater. It spurs on violence by using a political decision as a gruesome tactic to incite Yemenis against the Houthis by compounding the suffering of those in their midst. It is an alternative to the six-year-long failed attempt to take over the whole country by brute military force, despite the fact that that attempt has been fueled with billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons, intelligence information, and training, in addition to active participation in the blockade.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 20, 2021 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    …meanwhile, “toni soprano” insists with his idiocy, arrogance and cretinism: (…go, asshole, go to Iran..! Damn cockroach.)

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