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Lankford Urges Biden Admin to Re-Designate Iran-Backed Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), along with their colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to re-designate Iran-backed Ansarallah, known also as the Houthis and are based in Yemen, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in the wake of the group’s repeated brazen attacks against Israel.


“Re-designating the Houthis as an FTO would send a powerful message that the United States views this group as a clear threat to our Allies and partners and to regional stability in the Middle East,” the Senators wrote. “Since Hamas’s savage terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, the Houthis have launched three attacks against the Jewish state and promised to carry out more strikes ‘until the Israeli aggression stops.’”


“While the Houthi movement’s Iranian backers chant ‘Death to America, Death to Israel,’ its own doctrine is replete with virulent anti-Semitism and calls for genocide, including its own chant of ‘Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews…Despite being nearly 1,400 miles away from Israel, the Houthis have made a deliberate choice to engage in Iran-enabled terrorism against the United States’ partners and allies. Therefore, we urge you to re-designate the group an FTO immediately,” the Senators concluded.

The Trump Administration designated the Houthis as an FTO in January 2021, which the Biden Administration reversed in February the same year, citing humanitarian concerns. Following years of Iranian support, the Houthis have one of the most sophisticated arsenals of ballistic missiles and drones among Iran’s allies and proxies, which they have used to target US partners and interests.

Lankford remains a leader in shaping US policy toward the Iranian regime amid their attempts to destabilize the Middle East region and the world. Lankford introduced two bills to counter Iran’s global aggression. The Deterring Iranian Support for Russia in Ukraine and Pre-empting Terrorism (DISRUPT) Act puts pressure on Iran for their military partnership with Russia, and the Sanctioning Transfers and Outbound Products to (STOP) Iran Act will prevent American products from enabling Iranian terrorism.

Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Katie Britt (R-AL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) also signed the letter.A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We urge you to re-designate Iran-backed Ansarallah, known also as the Houthis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) due to the group’s brazen attacks against Israel—likely at the behest of Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime—and its continued acts of terrorism since you revoked the Trump Administration’s January 2021 FTO designation on February 12, 2021. Re-designating the Houthis as an FTO would send a powerful message that the United States views this group as a clear threat to our Allies and partners and to regional stability in the Middle East.

Since Hamas’s savage terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, the Houthis have launched three attacks against the Jewish state and promised to carry out more strikes “until the Israeli aggression stops.”  On October 20, 2023, a US Navy warship reportedly shot down several long-range cruise missiles and drones that Houthi terrorists had launched from Yemen toward Israel. Furthermore, on October 23, Houthi drones exploded near Israel’s border with Egypt, and on October 31, the Houthis launched additional drones and several ballistic missiles toward southern Israel.

These attacks underscore the membership of the Houthis in the Iranian regime’s “axis of resistance.”  Following years of Iranian support, the Houthis have one of the most sophisticated arsenals of ballistic missiles and drones among Iran’s allies and proxies. Indeed, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC)—a designated FTO and the arm of the Iranian regime responsible for supporting and advising its proxy network—provides the Houthis with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and other advanced weapons. The Houthi’s cruise missile attacks followed threats from the IRGC that it would escalate attacks against Israel if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) proceeds with its offensive in Gaza. While the Houthi movement’s Iranian backers chant “Death to America, Death to Israel,” its own doctrine is replete with virulent anti-Semitism and calls for genocide, including its own chant of “Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews.”

The Houthi’s alliance with Iran has allowed the IRGC to apply sustained military pressure against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Between 2015 and 2022, the Houthis carried out nearly 1,000 missile attacks and 350 drone strikes against cities and key infrastructure inside Saudi Arabia alone, including against oil facilities, airports, and military sites. These indiscriminate attacks have killed dozens of Saudi and Emirati citizens. At the same time, the Saudi and Emirati governments remain committing to providing humanitarian relief for the Yemeni people and provide billions of dollars in aid to augment US humanitarian efforts and work around Houthi aid diversion efforts. Mechanisms under existing US law ensure NGOs could continue critical humanitarian assistance following an FTO designation. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines international terrorism as, “violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by, or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations.”  The Houthis clearly meet that definition:  the group conducts their operations in concert with Iran—the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism—and, in specific, the IRGC, which again is itself an FTO. Despite being nearly 1,400 miles away from Israel, the Houthis have made a deliberate choice to engage in Iran-enabled terrorism against the United States’ partners and allies. Therefore, we urge you to re-designate the group an FTO immediately. 

Sincerely,

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