Biden’s Reversal Of Trump Yemen Policy Yields Dangerous Conflict

In a move that diverged sharply from his predecessor’s approach, Joe Biden, upon entering the White House in 2021, reversed President Donald Trump’s designation of the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis as a terrorist group. This shift, while allegedly aimed at addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, has sparked significant debate and controversy in light of the sustained attacks from the terror group in the weeks following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Under President Trump, the Houthis were classified as a terrorist organization, a decision rooted in their violent campaigns and destabilizing activities in the region, including the takeover of the Yemeni capital Sana’a in 2014. Trump’s approach was straightforward — a firm stance against what was seen as Iranian malign influence in the region. Mike Pompeo, then Secretary of State, asserted that this designation was essential to deter further aggression by the Iranian regime, emphasizing that if the Houthis did not act like a terrorist organization, they would not be labeled as such.

However, Biden’s administration viewed the situation through a different lens. Prioritizing humanitarian concerns, Biden officials argued that the terrorist designation was exacerbating Yemen’s crisis, obstructing food and aid delivery, and hindering political negotiation. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy lauded Biden’s decision, echoing the sentiment that the designation had a negligible impact on the Houthis but severe consequences for humanitarian efforts.

This policy reversal, however, has not been without criticism. Recent developments have led to renewed calls for the Biden administration to reconsider its stance. Critics, including experts and senior Pentagon officials, have highlighted the Houthis’ continued aggression and links to Iran’s broader regional strategy. The Houthis’ recent missile and drone attacks, targeting both Israel and U.S. military assets, have raised serious concerns about the group’s intentions and capabilities.

These developments bring into question the efficacy of Biden’s Yemen policy. While the intent to alleviate humanitarian suffering is commendable, the broader implications of empowering a group with a history of violence and ties to Iran cannot be ignored. The Trump administration’s designation was a strategic move to curb Iranian influence and promote regional stability.

Moreover, the Biden administration’s approach has faced domestic scrutiny as well. Progressive Democrats, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), have openly criticized Biden for authorizing airstrikes against Houthi rebels without congressional approval, highlighting constitutional concerns. This internal dissent further complicates the administration’s position, raising questions about the legality and strategic wisdom of its actions.

Here is a clip of comments from Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, from two years ago applauding the decision to remove the Houthis’ terror designation: