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Florida Congressmen Lead Push to Designate Iran-Backed Yemeni Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

This week, U.S. Reps. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., and Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., led a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken requesting the State Department re-designate the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Since their delisting, the Houthis have continued to commit terrorist attacks. Most recently, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree stated that the organization has conducted three attacks on Israel since the war started, including launching a “large number” of missiles and drones at Israel. This letter urges Blinken to promptly re-designate the Houthis as an FTO.

Waltz and Moskowitz were joined by 47 other members of the House.

The letter is below.

We write to you today to ask that you re-designate the Yemeni Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

On January 15, 2021, the U.S. State Department designated the Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This designation took effect on January 19, 2021.

At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that, “These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansar Allah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region. The designations are intended to hold Ansar Allah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.” The designation reflected the Houthis continued complicity in international terrorism, including missile attacks against civilian areas in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the continued support from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran.

This decision was subsequently reversed by the U.S. State Department on February 4, 2021, amidst the announcement of a new strategy towards Yemen. However, the Houthis continued to commit terrorist attacks on Yemen’s ports and surrounding waters. In 2022, two commercial vessels were the targets of Houthi drone strikes at Yemen’s Al-Dabba port. Most recently, on March 17, 2023, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported a vessel attacked by automatic fire near the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah.

On October 7, 2023, the Iran-backed Hamas organization, which maintains its FTO designation by the U.S. State Department, carried out gruesome terrorist attacks in Israel. In doing so, Hamas terrorists murdered over 1,400 people and abducted 239 individuals who are now held hostage in Gaza. The actions committed by Hamas against innocent civilians, including babies, children, and Holocaust survivors, were so horrific that they almost beggar belief. However, they are documented and real.

Despite their delisting 2021, the Houthis has decisively intervened in Israel’s conflict on behalf of Hamas. On October 31, 2023, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree stated that the organization has conducted three attacks on Israel since the war started, including launching a “large number” of missiles and drones at Israel. The U.S. military has aptly intervened in some of these attacks – in particular, the USS Carney shot down 4 cruise missiles and 14 drones over the course of nine hours on October 19, 2023. The presumed target of the missile and rocket launches were civilians in Eilat, Israel.

As this conflict between Israel and Hamas intensifies, the Administration must use every tool available to ensure that the utilization of U.S. military assets remains a last resort. As you know, the FTO designation primarily serves to help isolate the adversarial target from its enablers. It has two distinctive parts – first, it criminalizes providing materiel assistance and other supporting activities to the terrorist group. Second, it prevents individuals of the terrorist group from entering the United States through Section 1182 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Both elements could help prevent the Houthis from acquiring more war materiel like missiles.

We urge you to promptly re-designate the Houthis as an Foreign Terrorist Organization. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


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