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The U.S. Shouldn’t Make Dire Situation in Yemen Worse

Classifying Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a terrorist group would threaten crucial humanitarian aid efforts.

Nearly all of Yemen faces severe food insecurity.

Nearly all of Yemen faces severe food insecurity.

Photographer: Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP/Getty Images

A good rule of thumb for an outgoing administration should be to do no harm. Instead, the actions of Trump officials now threaten to deepen the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reportedly close to classifying Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement as a foreign terrorist organization. The label might be legally justifiable: In their long and brutal battle against a Saudi-backed military coalition, Houthi fighters have tortured prisoners, shelled civilians and recruited child soldiers. Pompeo’s main goal, however, is almost certainly to intensify pressure on the Houthis’ backer Iran before a new, ostensibly more dovish U.S. administration takes office. While President-elect Joe Biden technically could remove the Houthis from the list, doing so would be nearly impossible politically.