A leader of Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Monday the Iran-aligned group reserved the right to respond to any US move to blacklist it after the Trump administration announced its intent to designate it as a foreign terrorist organisation.
“The policy of the Trump administration and its behaviour is terrorist,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said in a Twitter post. “We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration.”
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“The Yemeni people don’t care about any designation from [US President Donald] Trump’s administration as it is a partner in killing Yemenis and starving them,” he added.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman also denounced the move, saying blacklisting the Houthis, like the designation of Iran-aligned Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Committee chairman Falih al-Fayyadh last week, is “doomed to fail”.
“It is clear that such moves are mostly due to the very undesirable conditions of the US in West Asia,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said in Tehran.
“It won’t be far and away when they come and negotiate with these same responsible and Indigenous groups in different countries, including in Yemen. These moves don’t have serious value. These are the final days of the Trump regime.”
A leading aid organisation on Monday warned Pompeo’s move would deal another “devastating blow” to the impoverished and war-torn nation.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the main humanitarian agencies active in Yemen, said the designation and Pompeo’s planned sanctions on the Houthis “will hamstring the ability of aid agencies to respond” to the humanitarian needs of millions of Yemenis.
“Yemen’s faltering economy will be dealt a further devastating blow,” said Mohamed Abdi, the group’s director for Yemen. “Getting food and medicine into Yemen – a country 80 percent dependent on imports – will become even more difficult.”
Relief organisations have long warned that sanctions could prove catastrophic for efforts to help starving Yemeni civilians caught in the conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-Emirati-led coalition that has waged war against the rebels.
Yemen, a country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is the stage of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster after more than six years of a grinding conflict that has left most of its nearly 30 million people in need of humanitarian aid.
The war has killed more than 112,000 people so far.
Hassan El-Tayyab, lead Middle East policy lobbyist at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in Washington, DC told Al Jazeera that after six years of devastating war and blockade, roughly 24 million Yemenis depend on assistance for survival.
“A terrorism designation would greatly exacerbate this suffering by disrupting the flow of much-needed food, medicine, and aid delivery to over 70 percent of Yemeni living in Houthi governed territory,” El-Tayyab said.
“At a moment when the UN is warning of imminent famine in Yemen, the incoming Biden administration and Congress must do everything they can to block, and if necessary, reverse any disastrous terrorism designation of the Houthis before even more innocent lives are lost.”
Al Jazeera’s Maziar Motamedi contributed to this report from Tehran