Skip to main content

Congressional Democrats and Republicans rebuke Trump admin over Houthi terror designation

The designation of Yemen's Houthi forces as a foreign terrorist organization has been met with criticism from both the House and the Senate.

Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress this week both criticized the Trump administration’s designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as terrorists.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Sunday that the Houthis would be labeled a foreign terrorist organization. Houthi forces are backed by Iran and are engaged in a civil war with Yemen’s internationally recognized and Saudi-backed government. The rebels have attacked Saudi Arabia, a strong US ally, several times in recent months.

House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said the designation would make it more difficult to deliver aid to war-ravaged Yemen, where Houthi forces control much of the country’s west.

"This designation makes it harder to deliver life-saving assistance in a country already experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” Meeks said in a Monday statement. “Food aid, clean water, and basic health care for millions would be severely impacted.”

The designation means any US-based assets of the Houthis can be seized. Aiding a designated terrorist organization is also a crime under US law. This could complicate aid deliveries to parts of Yemen under Houthi control.

Congressional Republicans made similar statements to their Democratic counterpart's. The ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul of Texas, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho said the executive branch must grant waivers if Yemen is to continue importing necessary supplies.

“Yemen imports 90 percent of its food. In light of near-famine conditions that have already existed in Yemen, this designation will have a devastating effect on Yemen’s food supply and other critical imports unless the Executive Branch acts now to issue the necessary licenses, waivers and appropriate guidance prior to designation,” McCaul and Risch said in a joint statement Monday.

All the congressmen voiced criticism of Houthi forces at the same time. Meeks said they have a “destabilizing role” in the country. McCaul and Risch called their behavior “dangerous.”

Some humanitarian organizations made similar comments to the congressmen.

"Already one of the most difficult operating environments for aid responders in the world, this designation jeopardizes the ability of aid agencies to continue operating at the scale required to prevent a catastrophe,” the US-based Mercy Corps said in a statement sent to Al-Monitor.

The designation of Houthi forces as terrorists, which takes effect Jan 19, is in line with US President Donald Trump’s strategy to pressure Iran and its allies. On Tuesday, Pompeo also accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial