Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday Congress would be notified of his intent to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement
US President Donald Trump's move to designate Yemen's Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation could disrupt peace efforts and hamper the delivery of life-saving aid in a country where fears of famine are rising, humanitarian agencies say.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday Congress would be notified of his intent to designate Yemen's Houthi movement, in what would be among the final acts of the Trump administration before the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20.
Here are some of the possible implications.
The United Nations is trying to restart political talks to end the war between the Houthis and a Saudi-led military coalition and the designation could create legal impediments to including the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and most big urban centres.
The Houthis could break off back-channel talks with Saudi Arabia on a nationwide ceasefire.
The move may lead to an escalation in violence and push the Houthis closer to Iran, which posted an ambassador in Sanaa in October 2020.
Pompeo said the United States is planning to put in place measures to reduce the impact of the designation on certain humanitarian activity and imports, of items like food and medicine, into Yemen.
The more than five-year war has left 80% of the population reliant on aid and millions on the verge of starvation. With a funding shortage this year, the United Nations has warned that Yemen is facing what could be the world's biggest famine in decades.
Aid agencies worry their work would be criminalised. The Houthis are the de facto authority in the north and humanitarian organisations have to get permits to carry out aid programmes, as well as work with ministries and local financial systems.
The designation - with the increased burden on banks' compliance mechanisms - could also impact Yemenis' access to financial systems and remittances from abroad, as well as complicating imports and raising goods prices further.