The U.S. has designated the Yemen-based Houthis as specially designated global terrorists. The State Department revoked the Houthis’ foreign terrorist organization label in 2021, in response to humanitarian groups that claimed it was accelerating a famine in Yemen. The Houthis’ attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea have threatened global trade over the past months.

In an attempt to prevent more assaults against commercial ships traversing the Red Sea, the U.S. State Department on Wednesday labeled the Houthi rebels, who are based in Yemen and are supported by Iran, as specifically designated global terrorists, or SDGTs.

An asset freeze intended to stop Houthi financing is triggered by the SDGT designation, but it won’t go into force until mid-February. Particularly, food, medication, fuel, and other humanitarian supplies flowing to the Yemeni people are exempt from the SDGT sanctions.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, a senior administration official stated, “We can consider delisting the designation if the Houthis cease their attacks.”

This is part of the next phase of the American pressure campaign aimed at weakening the Red Sea siege by the Houthis, which one official described as “a textbook definition of terrorism.”


Only one month after designating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) under former President Donald Trump, the State Department under President Joe Biden rescinded the classification in February 2021.

The United Nations and humanitarian organizations demanded the change in course because they believed that Yemen’s “slip into large-scale famine” was being accelerated by the terrorist classification and the sanctions that went along with it.

Following months of attacks in the Red Sea, the Houthis have been added again to the U.S. terrorist list three years later.

According to the senior administration official, the U.S. decided to use the SDGT designation this time around rather than the more potent FTO designation in an effort to lessen the possibility of unintended repercussions for Yemeni civilians while still deterring the Houthis.

“The Yemeni people shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of the Houthis’ deeds.”

The official went on, saying that the most recent Houthi terrorist designation is “one piece of a broader effort” to maintain international trade in the Red Sea and avert regional conflict in the Middle East. Due to safety concerns, prominent maritime companies such as Maersk have halted business operations in the Red Sea since the Houthis started their strikes shortly after the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

The Houthis have threatened to attack any naval organization connected to Israel until the conflict in Gaza stops, so the U.S. has so far employed trade sanctions, military pressure, and international collaboration to counter them.


The United States and the United Kingdom launched strikes against 16 Houthi insurgent locations on January 11, a move that alarmed some analysts who thought it would spark a bigger battle in the area. The White House disagreed with that evaluation.

According to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, “it certainly makes it harder for them to conduct these strikes by taking away, degrading some of their capability” during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Additionally, the United States and several other nations formed Operation Prosperity Guardian in December with the express purpose of defending the Red Sea.