Only nine days before the end of the administration of US President Donald Trump, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Ansar Allah (Supporters of God) Houthi group in Yemen has been designated a "foreign terrorist organization" (FTO). While the Democratic President Joe Biden's administration has confirmed that it would directly review this decision, announcing in the last week of January 2021 that it would suspend "temporarily", and for a period of one month, some sanctions imposed on the group, the inclusion of the Houthis in the list of terrorism, and not removing them from it soon, would cast a shadow over the stalled political solution course in Yemen.
The recently formed Yemeni government pursuant to the Riyadh Agreement is expected to face complex economic challenges that may paralyse its ability to fulfill the aspirations and hopes placed on it. The most important of those challenges are the significant decline in the Yemeni riyal exchange rate, and the difficulty of paying the salaries of public sector employees.
On 10 January 2021, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his Department intends to notify Congress of its intention to designate the Houthi Ansar Allah (Supporters of God) group as a "foreign terrorist organization" (FTO). In the same statement, which was posted on the website of the Department of State, he also announced his intention to designate three Houthi leaders, namely Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, on the list of international terrorists.
The US Secretary of State pointed out that the designations “will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by [Ansar Allah]”. It is also intended “to hold [Ansar Allah] accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping”. He also added that the designations are “intended to advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign, and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors”. These sanctions are scheduled to take effect on 19 January 2021, the day before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
This paper sheds light on the state of the coronavirus epidemic in Yemen, and whether this country has really passed the risk stage. The paper also reviews the nature of the Yemeni authorities' response (the legitimate government and the Houthis) to the pandemic and fears of a resurgence of the epidemic in the country.
The Yemeni crisis and the regional tensions that are fuelled by it have topped the list of concerns of the new US administration. On 4 February 2021, President Joe Biden announced the suspension of his country's support for the military campaign led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in Yemen, and appointed a special envoy to Yemen in an effort to strengthen US diplomatic efforts to "end the war" in this country. On the next day, his State Department announced the start of procedures for removing the Houthis from the list of terrorism, which was actually done on 16 February 2021.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks between Israel on the one hand and Iran and its allies, especially the Houthis, on the other hand. Each side has escalated on the ground and in the political and media space, and the two sides exchanged accusations, warnings, and threats with harsh responses. An important part of this escalation is related to the increasing concern of the Israelis about the development of the military capabilities of the Houthi group in Yemen and their access to advanced Iranian military technologies, including ballistic missiles and advanced unmanned aircraft capable of striking Israel, in the light of the possibility that Yemen may be the starting point of Iranian operations targeting Israel and US targets in revenge for the killing of Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh.
From the initial crisis surrounding political transition, and through the ensuing war, the United Nations (UN) has played a variety of roles in Yemen, under its mandate from the international community.
The political role of traditional parties and groups in Yemen has diminished during the course of the ongoing conflict; some have splintered into separate groups and many have lost much of their structural and organizational capabilities.
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