What happened?

On January 17, 2024, the US State Department (“State“) announced the designation of Ansarallah, commonly known as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (“SDGT“) pursuant to Executive Order 13224.  The designation will be effective on February 16, 2024, at which time the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC“) will add Ansarallah to the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (“SDN List“).  In other words, the designation is not effective immediately; there is a 30-day delay.

Why is Ansarallah being designated?

In its announcement, the State explained that the designation is in response to attacks by Ansarallah against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.  The announcement indicated that the designation will be reevaluated if the attacks cease.

Ansarallah was previously designated by the Trump Administration in January 2021 in two ways, i.e., as a SDGT and also as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO“).  Shortly thereafter, in February 2021, the Biden Administration removed both designations due to concerns that the measures could be an obstacle to humanitarian assistance reaching the Yemeni people.  There has been increasing pressure to re-designate Anasarallah in light of the recent maritime attacks. 

What is the impact of designation?

As a result of this designation, transactions by US Persons or within the United States that involve Ansarallah are generally prohibited, unless otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license.  Entities 50% or more owned by Ansarallah or other SDNs are subject to the same prohibitions.  Non-US persons engaging in activities involving Ansarallah (even if there is no US nexus) could also potentially face the risk of themselves being designated under the so-called “secondary” sanctions, among other risks. 

Notably, this time around, Ansarallah is only being designated as a SDGT and not as an FTO.  FTO designations create additional risks, as anyone who provides “material support” to FTOs can be liable for committing a crime under statutory law. 

Are there any humanitarian or other licenses?

OFAC published five general licenses with a delayed effective date of February 16, 2024.  These general licenses (“GLs”) authorize transactions involving Ansarallah related to:

  • The provision of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices (including replacement parts and components and software updates for medical devices) – GL 22
  • Telecommunications, mail, and internet-based communications – GL 23
  • Personal remittances – GL 24
  • Refined petroleum products in Yemen – GL 25
  • Port and airport operations which are essential for the Yemeni people – GL 26

These GLs supplement preexisting humanitarian GLs in the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, which authorize entities such as nongovernmental organizations to provide certain goods and aid to the Yemeni people,  subject to the conditions and requirements set out in the general licenses.

OFAC also issued FAQ 1158, which addresses the impact of this designation and steps taken by the US government to ensure commercial goods and humanitarian assistance continue to reach the Yemeni people.  The FAQ notes that specific license applications submitted that relate to humanitarian activity will be prioritized by OFAC.  OFAC intends to issue further guidance related to Ansarallah before February 16, 2024.

During the 30-day implementation delay (i.e., between January 17, 2024 and February 16, 2024), the US government will conduct robust research on stakeholders, aid providers, and partners crucial to the humanitarian assistance to “mitigate any adverse impacts this designation may have on the people of Yemen.” 

For more information in this evolving development, please contact a member of our Trade team.


Ms. Contini focuses her practice on export controls, trade sanctions, and anti-boycott laws. This includes advising US and multinational companies on trade compliance programs, risk assessments, licensing, review of proposed transactions and enforcement matters. Ms. Contini works regularly with companies across a wide range of industries, including the pharmaceutical/medical device, oil and gas, and nuclear sectors.


Eunkyung advices clients on various regulatory compliance and trade issues, concentrating on the US export controls such as the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), economic and trade sanctions, US customs and import laws, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and foreign anti-bribery laws.


Taylor Parker is an associate at Baker McKenzie's Chicago office and a member of the International Commercial group. Taylor leverages her background in governmental affairs, public health and the private business sector to provide global clients with coordinated solutions to international transactions and issues. Taylor advises clients on various international commercial matters, including domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, economic and trade sanctions, export controls, and customs and import laws.