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What Are the Potential Implications of the Houthi Terrorist Designation?

What Are the Potential Implications of the Houthi Terrorist Designation?

Sunday, 23 January, 2022 - 07:30
Houthi fighters in Sanaa. (AFP file photo)

International, regional, Arab and United Nations efforts throughout the past ten years have failed in transforming the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen into a political component in the country.

Instead, the militias' terrorist capabilities have grown, transforming provinces under their control into veritable detention centers and zones to recruit adults and children alike for their war effort. The Houthis have gone to lengths in altering Yemen's national identity and have consolidated their absolute subordination to the Iranian regime and its other pawns in the region.

Ever since their coup in Yemen, the militias have never ceased in presenting themselves as a racist terrorist organization that abhors coexistence and violates regional and international peace.

The American administration has been hoping that its diplomatic efforts would persuade the Houthis to join the political process to resolve the crisis. It appears, however, that it is starting to grow ever more convinced of the need to designate the Houthis as terrorist. The international community will likely soon follow suit. What are the implications of such a move?

Natural consequence

Yemeni political researcher and academic Dr. Fares al-Beel said the terror designation is a "natural consequence that befits the militias' crimes, behavior and purposes."

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he stated: "No other group in modern history has committed as many crimes and claimed as many millions of lives as the Houthis."

"Despite this, the world treats the militias as a political party that has the right to become a future political partner," he lamented.

"It is like saying these countries agree to be partners in government with al-Qaeda or the ISIS organizations," he went on to say. "Would they agree to such a thing?"

Al-Beel said the Houthis have outdone al-Qaeda and ISIS as the militias have toppled an entire state, killed and displaced its people and they boast a military arsenal and funds to rival the state's.

"Why is the world delaying in designating the Houthis? They have seen how they threaten the region and have gone beyond that to violate international security," he added.

The potential American and British designation of the Houthis will have a tangible impact on the militias' military capabilities, said al-Beel.

He noted that the militias still receive military reinforcements concealed in trade goods from several countries. The designation will greatly impact these operations.

Furthermore, the designation will force the Houthis to consider to become engaged in the political process as they will lose their room to maneuver and wrong-foot the international community, he continued.

The designation will also impact the Houthi leadership's ability to pressure several neutral or mediatory international parties, he predicted.

The designation will ultimately expose the militias' crimes after the world used to treat the Houthis as the victims, he remarked.

Most significantly, the designation will strip the Houthis of their claim that they represent Yemen or the Yemeni people, al-Beel stated.

On the economic level, the designation will deal the Houthis a heavy blow because it will sever their financial channels and diminish their trade activity, he added. Countries that are caught collaborating with the Houthis will in turn be subject to sanctions.

The designation will force the whole world to deal with the Houthis as a terrorist danger, he stressed.

Moreover, it will be tantamount to a declaration of war against the militias and the international community will have the responsibility to fight them, he added.

The designation will also remove international restrictions that have impeded the Saudi-led Arab coalition's mission in Yemen, al-Beel noted.

It will serve as a greenlight for the coalition to directly target the Houthis, their capabilities and leaderships with the support of the international community and organizations, al-Beel said.

Drying up sources of funding

Yemeni politician and journalist Fakhri Al-Arashi told Asharq Al-Awsat it "has become necessary for the international community to take more impactful resolutions to contain the Houthis and their Iranian backers."

Their terrorist designation will sever their connection to Iran and dry up their sources of funding and weapons, which are growing more sophisticated and powerful, he said.

The designation may force the Houthis to reconsider their "wrong calculations in targeting national, regional and international interests," he continued.

It will force them to "succumb to peace and reconsider pending files, especially the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement" on Hodeidah, he added.

Al-Arashi believes that the designation should not necessarily be followed by international military intervention to defeat the Houthis.

Rather, the legitimate Yemeni government should be supported on the ground and it should be supplied with sophisticated weapons, he suggested, explaining that the Houthis "are weaker than people believe and they would sooner be defeated by the Yemenis than foreign forces."

The Yemeni capabilities were demonstrated in the recent liberation of the Bayhan, Ain and Asailan districts from the Houthis, he noted.

The Houthis exploit political disputes and conflicting regional and international interests in Yemen to their advantage. Once these interests are all aligned and the legitimacy receives the adequate support, "then the Houthis will be defeated even without a terrorist designation," he added.

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