The Biden administration plans to list the Houthi rebels in Yemen as "specially designated global terrorists" as it works to respond to ongoing Houthi missile strikes against global shipping and naval forces in the Yemen region.
With an executive order issued on Wednesday, President Joe Biden hopes to put new pressure on the Houthis to de-escalate continued attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The change, which goes into effect in 30 days, is meant to cut the Houthis off from financing and resources, and call global attention to terrorist behavior.
The Houthi rebels were originally designated as a foreign terror group during the Trump administration, which barred the U.S. and U.S.-controlled interests from giving "material support" to the group.
Aid groups objected to the listing, saying it would deepen an existing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded the designation in 2021, when the Biden administration was working to deliver more humanitarian aid to Yemen.
The new designation as a "global terror organization" gives the U.S. more options to keep aid flowing than before. Senior Biden administration officials said the new classification would help ensure commercial shipping and humanitarian aid would continue to reach the country.
They said the administration would reach out to humanitarian groups in the days before the new designation is enacted, and that the change had been calibrated to minimize the effect on civilians in Yemen.
The change comes as U.S. forces destroyed a group of Houthi anti-ship missiles that were threatening shipping and U.S. Navy vessels in the Red Sea on Tuesday.
The exchange of strikes has escalated concerns for the security of shipping and Navy vessels in the region.
President Biden has said in recent days that he "will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary."
And on Tuesday, senior officials renewed calls for international cooperation to address the Houthi rebel threat.
"How long this goes on and how bad it gets comes down not just to the decisions of the countries in the coalition that took strikes last week," said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
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