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EXCLUSIVE

Bipartisan group of House members joins effort to redesignate Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists

Senate Republicans introduced legislation on the issue last week, but Democrats in the upper chamber said they hadn’t given the idea much thought

Mock drones and missiles are displayed at a square as Yemen's Houthi group launched a variety of missiles and drones at Israel, on November 07, 2023 in Sana'a, Yemen.

A bipartisan group of more than 40 House members on Tuesday joined the effort to restore the Houthis’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, following the Yemeni militia group’s repeated rocket and drone attacks on Israel.

Reps. Mike Waltz (R-FL) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) led a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider,  to Secretary of State Tony Blinken urging him to restore the designation.

“Despite their delisting [in] 2021, the Houthis [have] decisively intervened in Israel’s conflict on behalf of Hamas,” the letter reads. “As this conflict between Israel and Hamas intensifies, the Administration must use every tool available to ensure that the utilization of U.S. military assets remains a last resort. As you know, the FTO designation primarily serves to help isolate the adversarial target from its enablers.”

The letter goes on to argue that the move would “help prevent the Houthis from acquiring more war materiel like missiles.”

In an interview with JI yesterday, Waltz emphasized that the designation would help to isolate the Iran-backed Houthis, criminalizing under U.S. law any contact with the group including by port operators, shipping companies and the financial system.

Moskowitz highlighted the group’s attacks on Israel.

“The Houthis are launching rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians as our ally seeks to defend itself against Hamas,” he said in a statement to JI. “They are a terrorist organization – plain and simple. Re-designating them as a foreign terrorist organization is crucial in hindering the Houthis’ ability to acquire material assistance for their murderous activities.”

Senate Republicans sent a letter and introduced legislation on the subject last week, but several Democrats in the upper chamber told JI they hadn’t given the issue much thought or seemed cool to the idea. Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) joined Moskowitz on the House letter, which is largely backed by Republicans.

Beyond restoring the FTO designation, Waltz emphasized that the administration needs to more strictly enforce sanctions that the U.S. has in place.

“We have to have the designation, then we begin pressing down on how aggressively they’re enforcing,” he said.

Waltz said that he will be open to legislation reimposing the designation with or without support from the administration.

“There’s very little to no trust when it comes to this administration and enforcing sanctions on Iran. So we’re just going to put it in the law,” he continued.

Beyond the Houthis, Waltz said that the U.S. needs to restore deterrence through increased military action against Iran directly in response to its proxies’ attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East. He rejected the idea that increased U.S. military responses could prompt Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah, or Iran itself to increase attacks on Israel.

“The Iranians will trade proxy lives for American and Israeli lives all day long. You have to impose costs on Iran,” he said. “Sometimes you have to escalate to de-escalate. The Iranians understand costs, and right now they only see opportunity. And the more the administration tries to find a new type of concession in order to de-escalate, the more it’s actually going to escalate the situation.”

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