24 million Yemenis require international aid assistance. A blanket definition for the Houthis, as the outgoing Trump administration is considering, would be a catastrophic hurdle to the delivery of life-saving aid in Yemen. The UK must show leadership on this issue and not follow in Trump’s footsteps.
I’ve written to Dominic Raab alongside Wayne David MP, urging him to focus on this critical issue.
Guardian Coverage – 13th Dec
The Trump administration is facing mounting calls to abandon threats to sanction Houthi rebels in northern Yemen to avoid an imminent danger of extreme famine in the country, where almost two-thirds of the population are in need of food aid.
US state department officials are considering designating the Houthis as a terrorist group before the 20 January inauguration of Joe Biden, a move that would complicate the delivery of essential aid in large parts of the country, senior UN officials and NGOs have said.
The widely predicted move would be alongside a raft of flagged sanctions against Iran and its interests over the final five weeks of Trump’s rule, in which squeezing Tehran and its allies looms as a central plank of Washington’s foreign policy.
The Labour party in the UK added its voice to the concerns on Sunday, saying the expected move against the Houthis, whom Iran supports in Yemen, would result in aid being unable to reach much of the country’s north. The shadow minister for international development, Anna McMorrin, said this would deprive millions of people who had no choice but to remain under Houthi control of much-needed assistance.
In a letter to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, imploring the UK not to follow the US’s lead, McMorrin wrote: “We are concerned that a blanket definition for the Houthis would create a near insurmountable hurdle to the delivery of essential humanitarian relief, with those providing material relief or economic support to agencies and multilateral programmes at risk of legal or financial sanctions.
“Humanitarian organisations would also be denied practical contact with much of the Houthis’ administrative infrastructure and would be barred from using local civilian contractors to deliver programmes.”
Human Rights Watch has also warned of the consequences of US designation. “Many Yemenis are already on the brink of starvation, and US actions that would interfere with the work of aid organisations could have catastrophic consequences,” said the organisation’s Yemen researcher, Afrah Nasser, in a report released on Friday. “Any designation of the Houthis should at a minimum provide clear and immediate exemptions for humanitarian aid, but millions of lives should not have to depend on that.”
Yemen, one of the region’s most impoverished states, has been in turmoil over most of the past decade. Instability worsened when the Houthis overthrew the Yemeni government in early 2015. That was followed by a military intervention led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which has further destabilised the country and led to soaring humanitarian needs. Despite temporary lulls in fighting, calls for a permanent ceasefire have not been met.