The US has slapped sanctions on two key figures of Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement following the Biden administration’s recent calls for the Iran-backed group to help end the Yemeni Civil War.
The Treasury Department said in a statement on Tuesday that it had blacklisted Mansur Al-Sa’adi, the Houthi Naval Forces Chief of Staff, and Ahmad ‘Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, the commander of the Houthi-aligned Yemeni Air Force and Air Defense Forces. The sanctions effectively amount to US asset freezes.
“The United States condemns the destruction of civilian sites by the Houthi militants designated today. These individuals command forces that are worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki.
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The Treasury statement accuses the Houthis, with Iran’s help, of having “waged a bloody war” against the Yemeni government, using missiles, explosives, naval mines, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
It also alleges that the Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has provided military guidance and training to the Houthis. This support, the statement says, has allowed the Houthis to conduct “heinous” attacks on civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia – a reference to the group’s recent drone bombings on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport.
At the beginning of last month, President Joe Biden announced that America’s military would no longer support attacks on the Houthis by the Saudi-led coalition. However, Biden also said the US would still help Riyadh in “defending its sovereignty” against external threats.
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced last month that the Biden administration would reverse ex-president Donald Trump’s late-hour decision to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group before he left office.
The Houthis are a radical Shia Muslim movement that has rebelled against the Sunni Muslim-led, internationally recognized Yemeni government as part of the country’s ongoing civil war. The group is opposed to the Western allies of Saudi Arabia, including the US and UK. It controls large areas of Yemen and claims to want the country to become more democratic.
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