US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday at his first press conference of 2022 that he is considering re-designating Yemen's Houthi militia as an international terrorist organisation. The remarks come days after the Iranian-backed group killed three people in a drone strike in the United Arab Emirates.
On the eve of the anniversary of his inauguration, Joe Biden used the press conference to address foreign policy issues, primarily addressing the threat of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but also questions about Yemen and Iran. Biden officially removed the Houthi militia from the list of international terrorist organisations weeks after taking office, a designation that had been established by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The announcement of Biden's message on the Houthi militia came moments after UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba posted on his Twitter account that the Biden administration should restore the designation in response to Monday's attacks on Abu Dhabi's airport and a fuel depot. Al-Otaiba has also held consultations in recent days with Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in which they discussed the situation following the latest Houthi attacks. The embassy, in a second Twitter post, claimed that Al-Otaiba made every effort in the meeting with Sullivan to get Biden to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organisation.
Regarding the conflict, Biden admitted that "it's going to be very difficult" to end the struggle between the Houthis and Yemen's internationally recognised government and the Saudi-led military coalition, of which the United Arab Emirates is a member. All this at a time when the United Nations has referred to the Yemeni conflict as the world's worst humanitarian disaster
US special envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking was sent to the Gulf and London on Wednesday "to reinvigorate peace efforts in coordination with the UN, senior regional government officials and other international partners," US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. "The special envoy and his team will press the parties to de-escalate the military escalation and fully engage in an inclusive UN-led peace process," Price added.
Lenderking also referred to the plight of civilians, announcing that it is "urgently needed to alleviate the severe humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis". According to UN figures, more than 16 million people in Yemen are already in need of an estimated $3.9 billion in aid.
Also, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks on Wednesday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, in which Austin expressed his condolences for the loss of life and underlined his "unwavering support for the security and defence of the United Arab Emirates against all threats".
In another development, Biden referred to relations with Iran. The US leader has also worked to bring Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear weapons programme. "This is not a time to give up. There is some progress to be made," Biden said. In this regard, the US president has been criticised for a lack of forcefulness against the Houthis, who are backed by Iran.