Well, it took a direct missile attack on an American cargo ship to make it happen, but Joe Biden will reportedly add the Houthi militants in Yemen back to the designated list of terrorists at long last. Or more correctly, he will sort of add them back to the list, but it’s not the same list. Rather than designating the Houthis a Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) as they briefly were before Biden took office, the group will now be designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). (Isn’t that special?) We discussed the specific meaning of these terms and the implications for the FTO designation in a previous article after the President called the FTO list “irrelevant.” So what does the SDGT designation mean? Pretty much nothing, as Streiff explains at RedState.
This change in status for the Houthis was expected, as Biden himself had said they were terrorists.
The difference between the two designations is more than semantic.
Doing business with an FTO subjects you to sanctions, or if you are an American, to a lengthy prison term for material support of terrorism. Collaborating with an SDGT means nothing.
Gabriel Noronha lays out some of the most important distinctions between the FTO and SDGT lists.
After dozens of Houthi terror attacks, the Biden admin will re-sanction the group – but won’t put them on the FTO list.
1. Houthis can still get US visas;
2. Not a criminal penalty to support them;
3. US banks don’t have to seize their funds.https://t.co/pVvSDoxNZh
— Gabriel Noronha (@GLNoronha) January 16, 2024
The difference is not subtle in the least, as you can see. Being on the FTO list is similar to being on a federal “most wanted” list. There are stiff penalties for anyone found to be giving you aid or material support. You are unable to do business with certain entities. Being listed as an SDGT is the equivalent of landing on Santa’s naughty list. The United States is clucking its tongue at you for bad behavior, but you’ll probably still have a stocking on the chimney with your name on it. (Unless you’re Joe Biden’s granddaughter.)
The Associated Press bends over backward to claim that Biden was justified in removing the Houthis from the FTO list. They claim he did it for humanitarian reasons, seeking to ensure that “much-needed food, medicine, and other aid” would keep flowing to Yemen. But even the AP is forced to admit that any enforcement guidelines could easily be crafted to exempt food and humanitarian aid. Besides, the FTO designation was not being applied to the recognized government of Yemen which had been driven into exile. It was applied to the Houthis who drove them out.
Those excuses are another pile of malarkey. There were only two reasons that Joe Biden yanked both terror designations from the Houthis shortly after taking office. One was that the designation had been put in place by Donald Trump, albeit very late in his tenure. So anything done by the Bad Orange Man must itself be Bad by definition and be undone. The second and probably more pressing reason was that the Houthis are funded and supported by Iran and Biden was (and remains) desperate to get into a deal with them. And it was a deal that Donald Trump had scrapped, making it all the more tempting to Uncle Joe.
We probably wouldn’t even have the SDGT designation if it weren’t for the fact that Biden’s handlers have been watching his approval numbers continuing to crater. It’s an obvious embarrassment to Biden to have removed the terrorist designation from a group that immediately turned around and continued to act like the terrorists that they are. (At least in as much as Biden is capable of experiencing embarrassment at this point.) By making this move, he will be able to attempt to give the impression that he’s “doing something” about the Houthi terror threat while not really doing anything or being forced to pile additional sanctions on Iran for supporting them. In the end, this will do nothing to address the international commerce crisis being fomented in the Red Sea region.