Senate Republicans are moving on legislation that would redesignate the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, citing the group’s weekend missile attacks on a U.S. warship as an alarming escalation, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
The legislation—led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and six Republican colleagues—will be introduced this week and will reapply all sanctions on the Houthis that were lifted in 2021 when the Biden administration took office and removed the Iran-sponsored rebel group from the U.S. terror list.
Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, Iranian proxies in the region have escalated their operations, launching dozens of strikes on U.S. assets in the area. The Houthis are responsible for a spate of missile attacks on U.S. and Israeli positions during the past several weeks, including a weekend ballistic missile strike aimed at an American warship in the Gulf of Aden.
Cruz and other Republicans attempted to reapply sanctions on the Houthis early last year but that effort did not pass the Democrat-controlled body. However, with the Iranian-armed terror outfit now routinely launching ballistic missile attacks at U.S. forces, a redesignation of the group could garner bipartisan interest.
"The Biden administration made a day one politically driven decision to dismantle terrorism sanctions against the Houthis and their leaders," Cruz told the Free Beacon in a statement. "That decision was an obvious and catastrophic mistake from the very beginning, and it has only become more obvious and more catastrophic as time has gone on."
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Roger Marshall (R., Kan.), Thom Tillis (R., N.C.), Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.). It is likely other Republicans will join the effort as pressure mounts to address the Houthis' confrontation with the U.S. military.
The Biden administration has been under immense pressure from Republicans to explain why it is taking a softline approach towards Iran in the wake of Hamas’s war on Israel, which was planned with Tehran’s assistance. In addition to its weak sanctions policy on Iran and its terrorist proxies, the Biden administration gave Tehran access to around $10 billion in funds that were frozen in Iraq, cash that will "support more violence against Israel, the U.S., and our allies," according to Republican critics.
Cruz’s bill would reclassify the Houthis as a U.S.-designated terror group and reapply sanctions on its funding streams, including those from Iran. Sanctions would also be reapplied on several of its leaders, including Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim.
Cruz says the Biden administration fears reapplying sanctions on the terror group due to its diplomacy with Iran aimed at securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord.
"The Houthis and other Iranian-controlled terrorists are openly and routinely attacking the United States and our allies, but the Biden administration still refuses to reverse its decision, because they believe doing so would be politically costly," the senator said. "President Biden needs to put an end to enabling the Houthis and other Iran-backed terrorist groups through sanctions relief and sanctions non-enforcement. If he won’t, then Congress should mandate that he does so."