Implications of Probable Designation of Houthis as a Terrorist Organisation

12 January 2021 at 14h00 CET

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On November 16,  a report in the Foreign Policy disclosed the Trump administration plans to designate the Iran-backed Houthi militia a terrorist organization as part of its anti-Iran strategy. The move that is reported to come as a response to direct requests from Saudi Arabia and the UAE will have implications for the future trajectory of the war in Yemen, and international humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. The move also needs scrutiny in terms of internal, regional, and global dynamics.

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20. He had earlier penned an article with the name: “Why America Must Lead Again: Rescuing U.S. Foreign Policy After Trump in Foreign Affairs. In the article, Biden openly discusses five practical elements of his strategy for the Middle East. Those are:

  1. Actively engaging Iran to make it abide by articles of the nuclear deal and the US re-accession to JPCOA,
  2. Sustaining ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,
  3. Bringing back the vast majority of the US troops home from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East,
  4. Narrowly defining the US mission as defeating al Qaeda and the Islamic State (or ISIS), and finally,
  5. Ending the US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.


Against this backdrop, Beyond the Horizon International Strategic Studies Group will host a discussion on the implications of designating the Iran-backed Houthis a terrorist organization. The event will include a discussion on the internal dynamics of war, and the repercussions of such a move to US, regional and international efforts to restore peace in Yemen. What options stand in front of the President-elect Joe Biden will be also touched upon.

The panel will feature General (ret.) Joseph Votel, the former Commander of the U.S. Central Command and author of the article, “Political support, not terrorist designation, is key to moving forward in Yemen;” Baraa Shiban, Yemeni researcher, human rights activist and author of “Why Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement should be designated as a terrorist group;” R.David Harden, managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group and the author of the article, “Devil’s bargain: Sacrificing Yemen for a Saudi-Israeli peace deal.”


General (ret.) Joseph Votel

General (ret.) Joseph Votel

Distinguished senior fellow on national security at Middle East Institute.

Joseph Votel retired as a four-star general in the United States Army after a nearly 40-year career, during which he held a variety of commands in positions of leadership, including most recently as commander of U.S. Central Command.
Baraa Shiban

Baraa Shiban

Yemeni human rights activist

Baraa Shiban is a researcher for the human rights organisation Reprieve and previously served as the organisation’s Project Coordinator in Yemen. Shiban was the youth representative at Yemen’s National Dialogue in 2014 and has served as an advisor to the Yemeni Embassy in London for more than four years.

R.David Harden

Dave Harden

Managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group

Dave Harden is former assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, where he oversaw U.S. assistance to all global crises. He managed USAID’s Yemen response in the beginning of the Trump administration, based in Jeddah. 


Onur Sultan

Onur Sultan

Director for Terrorism, Conflict and War Department in Beyond the Horizon ISSG