The Trump administration is preparing to designate Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement a terrorist organization before leaving office in January, according to several diplomatic sources.

Iran PressAmerica: The decision fuels fear that the move will disrupt international aid efforts and upend the United Nations-brokered peace efforts in Yemen.

The UN and international relief agencies have tried to dissuade the Trump administration from designating Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement a foreign terrorist organization, but the apparently imminent decision would give US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another victory in his warmongering strategy as he visits Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week.

Riyadh, which has been at war with Yemen's Houthis for over five years, has already designated the Ansarullah Movement a terrorist organization and has been urging Washington to do the same.

"They have been contemplating this for a while, but Pompeo wants this fast-tracked," said one diplomatic source. "It’s part of the scorched-earth policy the sour grapes in the White House are taking."

In recent weeks, the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has been pressing the United States to back down and appealing to UN Secretary-General António Guterres to intervene with Pompeo, according to diplomatic sources.

Last month, Guterres urged Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, to reconsider plans to list the Ansarullah Movement as a terrorist organization. Germany and Sweden have also pressed the United States to back down. But the effort has apparently foundered, and the UN has begun preparing the groundwork for the US decision.

The US Department of Defense and career experts in the State Department are said to be against the move. A coalition of international charities, meanwhile, are preparing a joint statement anticipating the designation, comparing the potential impacts to the famine in Somalia after the US designated al-Shabab as a terrorist group in 2008.

"It is a mistake. This is an inflammatory move from Secretary of State Pompeo and the Trump administration to take," said Gregory Johnsen, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It would basically box in the new president when he wants to take a new approach to the war in Yemen and cut back on the Saudi war."

Diplomats opposing the move have also tried to sway Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a powerful ally of outgoing President Donald Trump who heads up the Senate Appropriations Committee’s foreign affairs panel, to come out against the designation. But Democrats in Congress who have long been calling for the Trump administration to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in the war are worried that the label could undermine fragile peace talks in the war-torn nation.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said any such designation would be a clear attempt by the Trump administration to hamstring future peace negotiations.

"The Houthis and their financial supporters are already subject to US sanctions, so the practical impact of the designation would be exclusively to make it more difficult to negotiate with Houthi leaders and to deliver aid to Houthi-controlled areas, where the majority of Yemenis still live," Murphy said.

The move appears to be part of a broader push by the White House and Pompeo to ratchet up pressure on Iran and its Middle East allies in the administration’s final months in office, a development that is likely to complicate efforts by President-elect Joe Biden to reopen talks with Iran over its nuclear program. During his presidential campaign, Biden pledged to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 by the Obama administration but abandoned by Trump two years ago.

The Trump administration, acting in coordination with Israel and the several Persian Gulf sheikdoms, intends to impose a flood of new sanctions on Iran and its backers before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to a report in Axios.

"The move is being framed in internal deliberations as an expansion of the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Tehran," according to the International Crisis Group. "Others say discussions of a designation were prompted by direct requests from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two Persian Gulf monarchies leading the coalition that has intervened against the Huthis."

The Trump administration has been mulling plans to designate the Houthi movement, formally called Ansarullah Movement, as a terrorist organization for well over a year. But that effort has gained momentum in recent months. In September, US officials told the Washington Post that the administration had launched a terrorism review of the Houthis and that it was weighing whether to declare the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization and to name Houthi leaders as "global terrorists," an action that would lead to a freeze of Houthi assets and bar members of the group from traveling to the United States.

Officials and other people familiar with the matter said the Trump administration could also designate Houthi leadership as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, rather than designating the entire movement as a foreign terrorist organization. Of the policy options, the broader terrorism designation is seen as harder-line, as it would not just sanction individuals in the group but would subject anyone who provides support to the group to criminal penalties. This could be a significant complicating factor for humanitarian organizations trying to help civilians in Houthi-controlled territories.

Tensions over how to handle Yemen policy continue to simmer within the administration, people familiar with the matter said, with some career experts at the State Department and US Agency for International Development sharply opposing the potential decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.

"What’s tragic is it’s a political and messaging issue for the Trump administration, but it’s a matter of life and death for people [in Yemen]," said one humanitarian expert on Yemen who spoke on condition of anonymity.