“These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region,” Pompeo said. “The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”
Fears about humanitarian aid
Diplomats and aid groups have said they fear such a move could threaten peace talks and hamper efforts to deliver aid to what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support government forces fighting the Houthis. The Houthis are the de facto authority in the northern part of Yemen, and aid groups rely on the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah to deliver help.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the main humanitarian agencies active in Yemen, said on Monday that the designation would “hamstring the ability of aid agencies to respond” to humanitarian needs in Yemen.
“Yemen’s faltering economy will be dealt a further devastating blow,” said Mohamed Abdi, the Council’s director for Yemen. “Getting food and medicine into Yemen - a country 80% dependent on imports - will become even more difficult.”
Pompeo said exceptions could be made to facilitate international aid: “We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” he said.
Final diplomatic shots
It’s feared the decision could derail UN-led peace talks as US President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take over from Donald Trump on January 20.
Pompeo was also expected to re-designate Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” according to several administration officials.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Secretary of State infuriated China when he declared restrictions on US diplomatic contacts with officials in Taiwan to be null and void. Beijing responded on Monday by saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the US’ decision, while Taipei said the move would elevate US-Taiwan relations to “a global partnership.” China requires that its trading partners do not engage in formal diplomacy with Taiwan.
The flurry of activity comes as Pompeo and his top aides hurry to take their last desired steps before Trump leaves the White House.