Biden calls Houthis terrorists, then declines to give them ‘irrelevant’ official designation

President Biden labeled the Houthi movement as “terrorists” on Friday but refused to give the Iranian-allied militants an official terror group designation — calling the difference “irrelevant.”

Biden was asked about the “terrorist” label just hours after he ordered airstrikes on Yemen in response to Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

“Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?” a journalist asked the 81-year-old commander in chief as he visited small businesses in Allentown, Pa.

“I think they are,” Biden replied.

In a subsequent exchange, Biden dismissed the need for an official designation following the joint US-UK bombardment, which Houthi leaders said killed five people. The offensive prompted a large anti-American rally in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

President Joe Biden speaks while visiting firefighters at the Allentown Fire Training Academy, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Allentown, Pa. AP

“A few minutes ago at the coffee shop, you said you think the Houthis are a terrorist group. I’m wondering, how soon are you willing to designate them as such?” a wire reporter asked.

“It’s irrelevant whether we designate them,” Biden said. “We’ve pieced together a group of nations and we’re going to say if they continue to act and behave as they do, we’ll respond.”

Biden’s administration de-listed the Houthi movement, which controls most of northern Yemen, as a terrorist group in February 2021, rescinding the Trump administration’s stance, which only took effect in the final days of his presidency that January.

U.S. President Joe Biden answers questions from the press at Nowhere Coffee Co. in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 12, 2024.  REUTERS

The terrorist-group designation would impose stiff penalties on anyone who does business with the movement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in 2021 that the political group was de-listed “to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Yemenis participate in a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, on Jan. 12, 2024.
Footage taken from an RAF Typhoon over Yemen on Thursday, January 11, 2024, showing a targeted strike against Houthi military targets. u k Ministry of Defense/UPI/Shutterstock

The Houthis have controlled most of the country’s population centers since 2014, when the Shia religious movement seized Sanaa after a simmering insurgency along the border with Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led, US-backed coalition was created under President Barack Obama to prevent the militants from completely taking over the country by turning back their incursion into the southern city of Aden in 2015.

The coalition later repelled a Houthi attempt to conquer the city of Marib in 2021, which has long been a major holdout in the north.

The stalemated power struggle contributed to widespread malnutrition and fighting between most internal fighting between the major factions — including southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates — has eased since 2022.

The Houthis began attacking ships in the Red Sea in response to the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on southern Israel that killed about 1,200 — and coincides with attacks by other Iran-allied militias in Iraq and Syria against US military bases.

Written by SaleemBaloch

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