It’s time for the U.S. to name Houthis as a terrorist group

US to name Houthis as a terrorist group

In a region that is rapidly changing, there are obstacles that must be eliminated in our path to peace, and those are the very organizations working to undermine stability and security in the Middle East.

In the space of one week, the United Arab Emirates has experienced two missile attacks from Houthi forces, the worst such attacks in our country’s 50-year history. What the Houthis misjudged, is that these are not just attacks on the UAE but attacks on the whole region. On Jan. 19, President Biden said he is considering redesignating the group as a terrorist organization.

The rapidity of the response in support of the UAE was humbling — the world’s leaders rallying to our side after video and images circulated of the attacks which sought to wreak havoc over the country.

What the world must understand is that this militia group is a group that has often used the slogan, “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam!” The Houthis are indiscriminate about its victims, as can be seen by the way it treats its own people in Yemen.

The Houthis’ treatment of Yemeni women and children is no less than the brutality the Taliban has imposed on Afghanistan’s women for years, but the world is not crying out for the rights of Yemeni women. In 2019, “a group of eminent experts” commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission found the organization was engaging in the forced recruitment of hundreds of children — depriving them of basic human rights such as education and stealing them from their families. The effect of this are future generations being stripped of hope, a peaceful future robbed from these young innocents at the hands of a group of brutal militant thugs.

Back in 2020, U.N. investigators found evidence that Houthis had recruited nearly three dozen teenage girls, some said to be survivors of sexual violence, as spies, medics, guards and members of an all-female force. The U.N. went as far as to say that the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Iran and the United States continued arming these brutal warlords.

These Islamists do not care for their own people, they care about an agenda of hate, of extremism and division, one which pits even Muslim against Muslim. Supported by Iran, the country is not helping build schools and hospitals in Yemen, but is sending arms; missiles and drones, to cause death, fear and destruction to Yemen’s neighbors and its own people.

This group is nothing less than a brutal gang, and we can no longer stay silent. The Yemeni people are suffering under this regime and now, so is the wider region, during a time when the feelings are positively moving to one of rapprochement and reconciliation.

The American Navy on several occasions has stopped Iranian ships smuggling arms to the Houthis. How much more do we need to see before the world wakes up to this threat?

Do we wait until they carry out attacks on Western soil? Is attacking civilian targets in the UAE capital not a signal enough that this group will stop at nothing? Do we wait until more Westerners in Yemen are held hostage once again or before it takes hold of an embassy in Yemen once more? Another holocaust where minorities are indiscriminately obliterated to near extinction? Where does this end before the world wakes up?

No sooner had the U.S. removed the group from its terror list had Iran revved up arming and training of its Yemeni proxy. So much for “appeasement.” These groups do not speak the language of appeasement. What message does removing them from the terror list send to other groups in the region when their behavior did not change, operations only deepening since the removal from the list?

The Houthis are not some kind of isolated component in the Middle Eastern fabric. They are part of a wider system alongside the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Iraqi militia. Much of the fundraising for the Houthis is secretly supported by these groups which are all interwoven, as we saw this week, the leader of Hezbollah in Iraq announcing its sending financial support to the Houthis in its mission against the UAE.

It is time the world spoke with one voice. The Middle East is sick and tired of conflict and these groups only destabilize the efforts of the UAE to stride forward and move into a new era of greater peace and stability.

We need to all acknowledge this brutal militia deserves to be redesignated as a terrorist organization. If the international community does not act now, this situation can only escalate into something worse and the people of Yemen deserve more. They deserve to hear the world supports them and recognizes the Houthis for what they really are.

Ali Al Nuaimi is chair of the Defense Affairs, Interior and Foreign Relations Committee of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council, and head of Hedaya, an international organization for counter-extremism.

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