WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, January 11, 2024, U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Brian Mast (FL-21), in a bipartisan letter, urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to redesignate the Iranian-backed Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Redesignation would help combat terrorism, maintain international order, and protect the United States’ national and economic security.
“Targeting commercial shipping vessels in retaliation for Israel acting in self-defense after one the deadliest days for the Jewish people since the Holocaust clearly falls within this definition of terrorism. Their actions pose a significant threat to the safety and security of maritime activities in the region,” wrote Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Brian Mast (FL-21) in a letter to Secretary of State Antony. Blinken. “Since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks against Israel, the Houthis have openly declared their unwavering support for Hamas and its barbaric acts against Israelis. Utilizing ballistic missiles, drones, and even hijacking vessels by boarding them from a helicopter, the Houthis are actively attacking ships they believe are destined for Israel.”
Full text of the letter can be found here.
January 11, 2024
The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken:
We are writing to request that you redesignate the Houthis, also known as Ansarallah, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The Houthis operate as an Iranian-backed terrorist organization with the objective of advancing Tehran’s influence around the region. Executive Order 13224 defines terrorism or activities of terrorism as “a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure…[that] appears to be intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” Targeting commercial shipping vessels in retaliation for Israel acting in self-defense after one the deadliest days for the Jewish people since the Holocaust clearly falls within this definition of terrorism. Their actions pose a significant threat to the safety and security of maritime activities in the region.
Since Hamas’s October 7th terrorist attacks against Israel, the Houthis have openly declared their unwavering support for Hamas and its barbaric acts against Israelis. Utilizing ballistic missiles, drones, and even hijacking vessels by boarding them from a helicopter, the Houthis are actively attacking ships they believe are destined for Israel. There have been more than ten documented instances of tankers and ships being attacked or boarded by the Houthis, with numerous near misses. In November, the Houthis hijacked the commercial tanker Galaxy Lender, a clear violation of international maritime law. On January 9, it was reported that U.S. and British naval ships shot down at least twenty-one Houthi drones and missiles, one of the largest barrages fired by the Houthis at commercial ships passing through the strait. It is crucial to note that more than 117,000 ships transit through the Bab el Mandeb Strait annually, averaging several hundred each day. Given the indiscriminate targeting by the Houthis, every international tanker passing through the strait is a potential target and remains at risk.
The situation has escalated to the point where major shipping, logistics, and oil companies, including A.P. Moller-Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM, and BP have announced they are rerouting their vessels away from the Red Sea and incurring additional costs to protect their cargo and crew. This decision was prompted by a series of recent attacks and near misses, leading Hapag Lloyd to express concern, stating, “It’s very worrisome because ships heading to the Suez have to pass through the strait.”
It has also been reported that Tehran is providing real-time intelligence to the Houthis to target ships passing through the Red Sea. While the U.S. led operation Prosperity Guardian is an important and positive step to utilize naval vessels from more than twenty nations to protect commercial vessels against attacks, Iran’s direct involvement and support for the attacks against the international order cannot go without further action.
The Houthis’ attacks on unarmed commercial ships not only undermines the United States’ national security but also its economic security. Currently, nearly fifteen percent of international trade flows through the Red Sea and commercial ships’ detours will inevitably result in higher costs for consumers. Companies such as IKEA and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. have already warned of inventory delays due to the mounting security situation, forcing companies to look for alternative, more likely expensive shipping methods. In December 2023, container ship traffic through the region was down twenty-eight percent compared to November 2023. This economic burden and looming threats to our national supply chain stems directly from the Houthis and their targeting of all ships, regardless of their connection to Israel.
In the interest of combating terrorism, maintaining international order, and protecting the United States’ national and economic security, we urge you to redesignate the Houthis as a FTO.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your timely response.
MEMBER OF CONGRESS
MEMBER OF CONGRESS