On January 17, 2024, the Department of State announced that it was re-designating Yemen-based Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group. This designation will be effective as of February 16, 2024, when Ansarallah will be placed on the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.

The designation as a terrorist organization is intended to impede the flow of funding to the Houthi militants and restrict their access to financial markets. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that, “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will reevaluate this designation.”

This action was taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224 that targets terrorists, terrorist organizations, leaders of terrorist groups, and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. The State Department indicated that designating Ansarallah as a global terrorist group is the result of recent attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that “have endangered mariners, disrupted the free flow of commerce, and interfered with navigational rights and freedoms.” Noting that the Houthis are operating such attacks out of Yemen, the State Department stated that it was taking “significant steps to mitigate any adverse impacts this designation may have on the people of Yemen.” As such, the 30-day implementation delay of the designation will allow for outreach to stakeholders, aid providers, and others “who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen.”

Once implemented on February 16, 2024, all property and interests in property of Ansarallah that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. All transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or exempt. These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

OFAC has issued several related Counter Terrorism-related General Licenses (GL) that will authorize certain transactions related to the provision of food, medicine, and fuel, as well as personal remittances, telecommunications and mail, and port and airport operations in Yemen:

  • General License 22 – “Transactions Related to the Provision of Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, Medical Devices, Replacement Parts and Components, or Software Updates Involving Ansarallah”;
  • General License 23 – “Authorizing Transactions Related to Telecommunications Mail, and Certain Internet-Based Communications Involving Ansarallah”;
  • General License 24 – “Authorizing Noncommercial, Personal Remittances Involving Ansarallah”;
  • General License 25 – “Authorizing Transactions Related to Refined Petroleum Products in Yemen Involving Ansarallah”; and
  • General License 26 – “Authorizing Certain Transactions Necessary to Port and Airport Operations Involving Ansarallah.”

These GLs will also be effective as of February 16, 2024. Certain transactions remain unauthorized under these general licenses and therefore require close analysis. OFAC also issued FAQ 1158 to address the impact of the designation noting, among other issues, that as a result of the designation, “transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States involving Ansarallah will be blocked, unless they are otherwise authorized.” OFAC also notes in this FAQ that Yemen “is not subject to jurisdiction-based sanctions, nor will it become subject to jurisdiction-based sanctions on February 16, 2024.”