Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State
Department of State
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We, the undersigned, are former career diplomats and civil servants who have exercised responsibility for the implementation of U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the Republic of Yemen, across a number of presidential administrations both Republican and Democratic. Several of us also had responsibility for the implementation of U.S. policy to combat terrorism and the threat of violent extremism. We are united in our alarm over the prospect that the Trump administration is determined to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. We urge the administration not to take this step, which we believe would be deeply damaging to U.S. national security interests, including the fight against terrorism, and, most of all, to the innocent civilians in Yemen.
To be clear, we hold no sympathy for the Houthi movement, nor are we condoning its actions. It is responsible for provoking this conflict and for inflicting grave harm on Yemen’s civilian population and its infrastructure. That said, we do not believe that the Houthi movement meets the definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organization nor do we believe that the designation will advance U.S. national security interests. In fact, designating the Houthi movement will be perceived as politically motivated and will undermine the credibility of U.S. counterterrorism programs and policies, which serve as a first line of our nation’s defense.
Most importantly, the true victims of the designation will be the tens of millions of long-suffering, innocent Yemeni civilians. An FTO designation of the Houthis will significantly, and fatally for many, disrupt the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian assistance, food, and medicine to the seventy percent of Yemenis living in areas under Houthi control. It will impede the payment of salaries by international agencies to the aid workers, teachers, and doctors who are working heroically to provide essential services for Yemenis, often under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. And it will complicate, if not cripple, efforts to bring the conflict to a negotiated end and begin the long process of stabilizing and reconstructing Yemen.
For all of these reasons, we urge the administration to abandon plans to designate the Houthi movement as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Instead, we encourage the administration to re-double its support for the UN-led peace process. U.S. backing can provide critical momentum to efforts to persuade the parties to end the fighting, implement a permanent, sustainable cease-fire, and begin the political reconciliation that will permit Yemenis finally to address the root causes of the current conflict.
Hon. Barbara Bodine, former Ambassador to Yemen and Coordinator for Counterterrorism (Acting), Department of State
Hon. William J. Burns, former Deputy Secretary of State and Ambassador to Russia and Jordan
Hon. Ryan Crocker, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and Iraq and Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, and Lebanon
Hon. Gerald M. Feierstein, former Ambassador to Yemen and Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State
Hon. Jeffrey Feltman, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs
Hon. Edward W. “Skip” Gnehm, former Ambassador to Kuwait and Jordan
Hon. Arthur H. Hughes, former Ambassador to Yemen and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Peninsula Affairs
Hon. Edmund Hull, former Ambassador to Yemen and Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State
Hon. Thomas Krajeski, former Ambassador to Yemen and Bahrain
Hon. A. Elizabeth Jones, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (Acting) and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
Michael P. “Mick” Mulroy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and retired CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer
Hon. Anne W. Patterson, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and Ambassador to Egypt, Pakistan, El Salvador, and Colombia
Hon. Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, and Jordan
Hon. Bruce Riedel, former Special Assistant to the President for Near East Affairs
Hon. William Roebuck, former Ambassador to Bahrain and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for North African Affairs
Hon. Richard Schmierer, former Ambassador to Oman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near East Affairs
Hon. Stephen Seche, former Ambassador to Yemen and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Peninsula Affairs
Hon. Marcelle Wahba, former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates
Hon. Frank Wisner Jr., former Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Ambassador to Egypt, the Philippines, and Zambia
Hon. Susan Ziadeh, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Peninsula Affairs and Ambassador to Qatar