The Houthis are a dangerous and deadly Iran-backed terrorist group based in Yemen. We must recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran for the evil it is and redesignate the Houthis, who operate as a weapon of war for the Iranian regime, as the terrorist organization they are. Pictured: Houthi gunmen in Sanaa, Yemen on October 18, 2021. (Photo by Mohammed Huwais/AFP via Getty Images)
Too often the West finds itself hoping for and seeing a positive outcome when reality presents something very different. Think about the West's response to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, where we promoted Western values of openness as a replacement for Communism. Consider the vote by Congress in 2000 to grant China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status, a status I voted against when in Congress. Reflect on President Barack Obama negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in 2015. None of these major deals has worked the way the West and the United States had expected or hoped.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the West embraced the new Russia. Europe and the U.S. built strong economic ties with Russia, fueling a growing economy and funding Russia's military build-up. Europe became reliant on Russian energy, with Germany, Europe's largest economy, dependent on Russia for up to 40% of its oil and gas. With construction of Nord Stream 2, Europe's dependency was set to grow even further, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused its halt. Look at the results of the West's embrace of Russia.
In 2008, Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia; in 2014 it invaded eastern Ukraine and seized Crimea; and now in 2022, it invaded the rest of Ukraine. Russia also conducted radiological and chemical nerve agent attacks against opponents of Vladimir Putin in the U.K. Instead of reacting with sanctions and boycotts, the West's response was muted, almost non-existent. For inexplicable reasons, the West believed these incursions did not cross any meaningful red lines that would have necessitated a strong response.
The glass the West kept seeing as half-full, despite all evidence to the contrary, was completely empty. Today the people of Ukraine are paying the horrendous price of the West's unwillingness to see and respond to the evil reality of Russia and Putin. Today, Ukraine faces the indiscriminate bombing of its cities by the Russians; the Russian military is targeting civilians and even shelters marked with the word "children" in Russian. The reality is a calamity of unprecedented proportions not seen in Europe since WWII.
When Congress passed PNTR for China, the hope was that China would enter the rules-based system of global trade. Markets would open to China and China's market would open to the rest of the world. The reality ended up being extremely different.
China's trade practices are one-sided. Markets opened to China, but the Chinese market remains an incredibly restricted opportunity for its trading partners. China does not play by the rules of free trade, and it engages in intellectual property theft and other unfair trade practices. As a result, it has developed huge trade surpluses with the West, and the world has become dependent on China as a linchpin in global supply chains.
With the outbreak of a deadly pandemic, China was not transparent with what it knew and when it knew it. This resulted in untold thousands of unnecessary global deaths. It used its dominant position in the production of medical personal protective equipment to both hoard supplies and as a weapon of political influence. It has used the prosperity brought about by its massive trade surpluses to fuel an arms buildup. Meanwhile, it has crushed freedom in Honk Kong, menaces Taiwan, and most significantly, it is engaging in genocide against a minority within its borders, the Uyghurs.
Even as China's behavior did not meet the West's expectations after 2000, the West did not change how it treated China. The half-full glass that the West saw for 20 years should now also be recognized as just another empty glass. The Chinese Communist Party is committed to destroying the West and our way of life.
While we still have time to act, we must ensure the U.S. and West do not repeat the same mistake with Iran. After the JCPOA was signed in 2015, Iran continued to run a covert nuclear weapons program, develop its ballistic missile capabilities, and fund regional terrorism in hopes of destabilizing its neighbors. Among the terrorist groups funded by Iran are the Houthis, who continue to launch attacks targeted at civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Houthis are a dangerous and deadly terrorist group based in Yemen. Recently, senior Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi went on an antisemitic tirade in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine stating, "It is because its President is Jewish. Any country run by a Jew ends up going to war."
Does the Biden administration find such racist, slanderous statements acceptable? Will the Biden administration refute them? Or will they passively accept them the way they passively accepted the Taliban taking over Afghanistan or Putin invading Ukraine?
The Biden administration would do well to make sure that something comes at a cost. It is this backwards and hateful way of thinking that underpins the atrocities being committed by the Houthis in Yemen every day.
The Houthis need to be put back on the List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations immediately -- instead of the US taking Iran's rapacious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) off it. The IRGC, which just claimed credit for attacking the Kurds in Erbil, will, while the world is looking the other way, simply take over Erbil and the rest of Iraq.
"[S]aying that the world's largest terrorist organization is not a terrorist organization... This is too high a price" for "empty promises from terrorists" on a nuclear deal, according to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
If the US allows Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability, you can kiss peace in the region goodbye. That will be President Joe Biden's legacy.
With Russia and China, it was the U.S. and our allies who embraced the false hope for a new era of prosperity and peace. It did not turn out that way. America's allies in the Middle East -- Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- are raising serious concerns about any new agreement between the U.S. and Iran. They see that embracing Iran comes from a false hope that it will lead to better behavior on the part of its regime and terrorist proxies.
Biden and his team need to put away the rose-colored glasses with which they keep looking at Iran, and see the empty glass set before them. Those statements by one of the Houthis' top officials give us a clear insight into what we can expect from Iran and its proxies. We should take them at their word.
Let us not make the same mistake the U.S. and Europe made by embracing Russia, or the mistake made in Asia by embracing China. We must recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran for the evil it is and redesignate the Houthis, who operate as a weapon of war for the Iranian regime, as the terrorist organization they are. The strategy of hope did not work for Russia or China, and it will not work with Iran.
Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently Chairman of the Center for Security Policy Board of Advisors, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.