National Security Council spokesman John Kirby evaded a reporter’s question on Thursday when asked about President Biden’s decision to unlist Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as a terrorist group.
During the daily White House press briefing, Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich asked Kirby whether Biden holds any ‘regret’ for delisting the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, and whether the administration is reconsidering the move.
‘I’ve already said that we are going to review that decision. We are,’ Kirby replied, although he gave no time frame for the review.
‘I don’t have a date certain for you or any outcome to brief, Jacqui, but we said we’re already gonna take a look and review that decision,’ he added.
Several of the president’s Republican critics in Congress have urged the Biden administration to consider reclassifying the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). The Trump administration applied the designation to the group as one of its final acts, but Biden reversed that decision as one of its first acts upon taking office.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the time argued that the administration removed the designation over concerns that it might have ‘a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.’
However, since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, the Houthis are one of several Iran-backed proxy groups who have harassed Israeli and U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East.
Earlier in November, a group of Republican lawmakers led by Sen. Steve Dains, R-Mont., introduced legislation that would force the administration to redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist organization.
The Standing Against Houthi Aggression Act would allow the U.S. to enact several measures and sanctions against the group, including disruption of financial support networks.
The designation makes it unlawful for a person in the U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction to knowingly provide material support or resources to an FTO, and members of an FTO are inadmissible and – under certain conditions — subject to removal from the U.S.
The legislation came in response to the attacks on U.S. forces.
In the most recent incident, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters on Sunday. The Houthis took credit for the attack, claiming it launched multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at two Israeli vessels. Israel denied any link to the ships.
A U.S. Navy destroyer, the Carney, shot down three drones as it answered distress calls from the vessels, which the U.S. military said were connected to 14 separate nations.
‘These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,’ U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. ‘We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.’
U.S. forces in the Middle East have been attacked at least 75 times since the middle of last month. The Pentagon does not count attacks on U.S. warships at sea in this number.
Fox News Digital’s Peter Aitken, Danielle Wallace, Andrea Vacchiano, Lucas Tomlinson and Liz Friden contributed to this report.