LONDON: The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two commanders of Yemen’s Houthi militia, blaming them for attacks amid Washington’s efforts to stop the devastating war.
The sanctions against the Houthis’ naval and air force chiefs, Mansur Al-Saadi and Ahmad Ali Ahsan Al-Hamzi, come after President Joe Biden lifted a broader designation of the Iran-backed militia as a terrorist group due to concerns of aid groups.
The Treasury Department said the actions of the two militants “have prolonged Yemen’s civil war and exacerbated the country’s humanitarian crisis.”
Washington said Al-Saadi and Al-Hamzi are responsible for orchestrating attacks by the Houthi militia that have impacted the lives of Yemeni civilians, bordering nations, and commercial vessels in international waters.
“These actions, which were done to advance the Iranian regime’s destabilizing agenda, have fueled the Yemeni conflict, displacing more than one million people and pushing Yemen to the brink of famine,” it said in a statement.
The move comes a day after a United Nations pledging conference for Yemen to help stave off famine in the war-torn country that rights groups say is the worst humanitarian crisis seen in decades.
Last month, the Iran-backed Houthi militia launched an offensive to capture the oil-rich Marib governorate from the internationally recognized government, threatening mass displacement and deepening the humanitarian crisis.
They have also increased cross border attacks targeting Saudi Arabia. A Houthi missile fell in the southwestern Jazan region, injuring five people, early on Tuesday.
“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 at the Treasury Department, Andrea Gacki.
“The United States remains committed to promoting accountability of Houthi leadership for their actions, which have contributed to the extraordinary suffering of the Yemeni people,” Gacki added.
The US said that since the start of the conflict in Yemen, the Houthis, with the support of the Iranian regime, have waged a bloody war against the internationally recognized government using ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack bases, population centers, infrastructure, and nearby commercial shipping.
It also said that Iran has provided direct funding and “material assistance” to the Houthi militia, including small arms, missiles, explosives, and UAVs, that has further intensified the six-year conflict.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has also provided the Houthis with military guidance and training, the US said.
“This support has allowed the Houthis to threaten Yemen’s neighbors and to conduct heinous attacks damaging civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” the Treasury Department said.
It added that Iran’s support of the group has prolonged the war and led to the widespread suffering of millions of Yemenis.
Both Al-Saadi and Al-Hamzi were trained in and acquired weapons from Iran, which have been used in the civil war.
Houthi naval commander Al-Saadi masterminded deadly attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and put fishermen and other civilians at risk with naval mines, the Treasury Department said.
And air force commander Al-Hamzi has carried out targeted drone strikes, it said.
The Treasury said the action was being taken under an executive order issued by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 that aims to freeze the assets of people threatening the peace, security or stability of Yemen.
The action bans US persons from engaging in transactions with the Houthi leaders and blocks any property they may have under US jurisdiction.
Former US President Donald Trump had designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization in his final days in office.
(With AFP and Reuters)