FIRST ON FOX: Dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday called for the Biden administration to designate the Iran-backed Houthis a Foreign Terrorist Organization, arguing that a recent move to put them on a separate terror list doesn’t go far enough.
“We find it deeply concerning that the Administration once again opted not to designate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO),” the 54 House lawmakers, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said.
The Biden administration placed the Houthis on the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list last month, which will trigger sanctions designed to prevent further attacks on global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
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“These attacks are a clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law and a major threat to life, global commerce, and they jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” a senior administration official told reporters last month.
The administration had removed the terrorist group from the FTO list in February 2021, which the Houthis had been placed on during the Trump administration, to get more foreign aid to Yemen.
“It was the correct step in 2021 to revoke the foreign terrorist organization and SDGT designations for the Houthis,” an administration official said, adding that Blinken made that decision “in recognition of a very dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
The shift in position to redesignate the Houthis came after the Yemen-based group launched attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea, with thousands of ships being forced to divert to avoid the Red Sea. The U.S. and U.K. have since launched a series of attacks on Houthi targets in Yemen in reaction to a lethal drone attack on a U.S. base in Jordan.
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The Republican lawmakers, however, say that the anti-shipping campaign extends a “long-standing record” of terror attacks in the Peninsula that preceded the Biden administration’s removal of the Houthis from the FTO list.
“The Administration has consistently justified this decision by claiming that such a designation could have an undue impact on innocent Yemenis,” the lawmakers say. “Yet this argument is spurious as relevant statutes have sufficient mechanisms to allow sanctions to be tailored to avoid this result.”
They also argue that a policy of rapprochement with Iran, even if on hold, cannot be allowed to tie the administration’s hands on the matter. They say that it is time for a “significantly stronger response” from the administration.
“While the Administration has taken several steps to respond to the Houthis recent attacks, including the launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian and kinetic strikes, such steps come too late, do not weaken Iran, and have failed to reestablish deterrence, as the President himself has admitted,” they say.
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They argue that the SDGT designation includes broad exemptions for fuel and port transactions and will not come into effect for a month.
“An FTO designation is substantially preferable to a stand-alone SDGT designation,” they say. “Listing the Houthis as an FTO would provide a right of action to victims of Houthi terrorism, impose visa bans, and apply sanctions widely to non-U.S. persons, while your SDGT designation would not. Likewise, when compared with an SDGT listing, an FTO designation would also reduce the legal threshold for penalizing violators of the resultant sanctions.”
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“The Houthis unquestionably meet the threshold for FTO designation, and so, given the forgoing, we believe you should redesignate them as an FTO immediately,” they say.
Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.