November 23, 2020
The United States is “keeping all our options open” when it comes to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the national security adviser said Monday, amid reports the outgoing Trump administration could tag the group as terrorists.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Philippines, Robert O’Brien criticized the Iran-backed Houthis of failing to engage in a “good-faith peace process” to end the conflict.
The Houthis are at the center of a flurry of diplomacy as the Trump administration, which has made isolating its arch-foe Tehran a centerpiece of its regional policy, enters its final weeks.
Washington was monitoring the situation “very closely,” said O’Brien in response to a question on whether the US would designate the Houthis a “terrorist organization.”
“We are constantly considering whether and who and how we should designate terrorist organizations,” O’Brien said.
“President Trump is still the president of the United States for the next 50 days and this will be something that is certainly on the agenda and we will have to see how that plays out,” he added.
“Right now we encourage the Houthis to expel the Iranians, to stop attacking neighbors and stop attacking people within Yemen and engage in a good-faith peace process with the other stakeholders in Yemen.”
The rebel group controls the capital Sanaa and much of the north after a grinding five-year war with government forces that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The government is supported by a Saudi-led coalition, assisted by Western powers including the US.
The Houthis have reacted angrily to the prospect of the US designation, saying Trump had no right to make the ruling after failing to win a second term.
The possibility has also alarmed humanitarian groups who say it could cripple aid delivery and tip the country into famine.