Blacklisting the Houthis: What is the Price – What is the Gain?

By LtCol Michael von Normann, German Army, US Central Command: Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate; Combined Strategic Analysis Group, Middle East Branch
9 Feb 2021


On December 30, 2020, three precision-guided missiles struck Aden Airport where a plane carrying Yemeni cabinet members had just landed. The strike killed twenty-seven people and wounded over 130. Although no one has yet claimed responsibility, it is likely the Iran-backed Houthis were involved. Such a likelihood is based upon the fact that the attacks targeted the new Internationally Recognized Government of Yemen (IRGoY) and the Southern Transition Council (STC). Another indicator is that the techniques and weapons employed are similar to those previously used by the Houthis. In response to this attack, the US State Department declared the Houthis ‘terrorists’ effective January 19, 2021.

Key Points:

  • Although the list of Houthi atrocities is long, the Houthi’s close relationship with Iran highly likely influenced the decision by the previous administration to designate them as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
  • FTO blacklisting exacerbates the humanitarian situation in Yemen by creating barriers for the distribution of international aid.
  • The FTO designation will negatively impact humanitarian assistance upon which 70% of the population relies.
  • The international community requires consensus on political goals, and substantial diplomatic effort to increase security cooperation.

Read the complete paper here.

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.