The Treasury Department said it would exempt certain transactions involving the Houthis from sanctions resulting from Pompeo's designation of the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” on Jan. 10. The exemption will expire Feb. 26, according to a statement from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing a general license for transactions, AP reported.
The sanctions Pompeo imposed had taken effect Jan. 19, just a day before Biden was inaugurated, and had been roundly criticized by the United Nations and relief organizations. Critics said the sanctions would exacerbate what is already one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises by barring aid deliveries to civilians in the war-torn nation.
Treasury's license does not reverse Pompeo's designations and does not apply to specific members of the Houthi movement who have been otherwise sanctioned.
The designation had sparked confusion in aid agencies and warnings from the UN, as well as senior Republicans, that it could have a devastating impact on a conflict-wracked nation facing the risk of famine.
Twenty-two aid groups had pleaded for Biden to immediately reverse the designation, with Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul saying, “Lives hang in the balance.”
They also warned that the listing would hit commercial deliveries which make up most of Yemen's food, fuel and medicines, and make money transfers and paying staff salaries "even more difficult".
The Houthis took control of the capital Sana’a and much of northern Yemen in 2014. A year later a Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign to bring them down and restore a former government.
Six years of war have been catastrophic for Yemen, killing more than 112,000 people and reducing infrastructure from roads and hospitals to water and electricity networks to ruins.
Most of Yemen’s 30 million people rely on international aid to survive. The UN says 13.5 million Yemenis already face acute food insecurity, a figure that could rise to 16 million by June.