U.S. sanctions smuggling network aiding Houthi rebels

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Houthi rebels to accept a cease-fire in Yemen. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI

June 11 (UPI) — The Biden administration has blacklisted a smuggling network it accuses of aiding Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen.

The Treasury said in a statement that this network led by Iran-based Houthi financier Sa’id al-Jamal generates tens of millions of dollars in sales by selling commodities such as Iranian petroleum to those evading sanctions through international shell companies, intermediaries and exchange houses.

“This network’s financial support enables the Houthis’ deplorable attacks threatening civilian and critical infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” said Andrea Gacki, the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury. “These attacks undermine efforts to bring the conflict to an end and, most tragically, starve tens of millions of innocent civilians.”

The United Nations has dubbed Yemen “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” due to the war that broke out between the Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition forces in 2014, resulting in an estimated 80% of its 31 million population in need of humanitarian assistance, including some 5 million facing famine and 4 million internally displaced, according to the United Nations Human Refugee Agency.

The Treasury said that since the conflict began, the Houthis have been reliant on the IRGC for funding its war campaign. The rebels have recently escalated its military campaign in Marib governorate that U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said last month was resulting in “an astonishing loss of life” over the past year despite diplomatic efforts seeking a cease-fire.

Along with al-Jamal, the Treasury sanctioned a cohort of seven businessmen and four companies, freezing their U.S. property and assets as well as blocking American citizens from doing business with them.

Turkey-based Abdi Nasir Ali Mahamud and his Adoon General Trading FZE, Adoon General Trading LLC and Adoon General Trading Gida Sanayi Ve Ticaret Anonim Sirketi entities were blacklisted by the Treasury as it accuses Ali Mahamud of using his companies to transfer millions of dollars for al-Jamal.

UAE-based Indian national Manoj Sabharwal, Turkey-based Yemeni Hani ‘Abd-al-Majid Muhammad As’ad, Somali businessman Jami’ ‘Ali Muhammad, Syrian Talib ‘Ali Husayn Al-Ahmad al-Rawi and Greece-based Syrian Abdul Jalil Mallah were also sanctioned for being apart of the smuggling network.

Swaid and Sons, a Yemen-based exchange house, was also blacklisted as it facilitated millions of dollars worth of transactions for al-Rawi and Mallah at al-Jamal’s direction.

“Ending the suffering of millions of Yemenis is of paramount concern to the United States,” the Treasury said, “and we will continue to hold accountable those responsible for widespread misery and deny them access to the global financial system.”

Less than a month into in presidency, President Joe Biden in early February declared he was ending U.S. support for offensive military operations in the Middle Eastern country, stating “this war has to end.”

He tapped Tim Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran, Iraq and regional affairs to lead the effort to end the war.

Late last week, Lenderking returned from meeting with Middle Eastern allies with whom he discussed the need for a comprehensive cease-fire.

Thursday’s sanctions follow those imposed last month against two senior Houthi leaders responsible for launching attacks in Marib that threaten to deteriorate the situation where the Treasury said was a beacon of stability for millions amid the war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthis’ ongoing offensive in Marib is counter to the United States’ goal to resolve the conflict in Yemen.

“It is time for the Houthis to accept a cease-fire and for all parties to resume political talks,” Blinken said in a statement. “Only a comprehensive, nationwide cease-fire can bring the urgent relief needed by Yemenis, and only a peace agreement can resolve the humanitarian crisis.”

The United States top diplomat also said he lifted sanctions on three former Iranian government officials and two companies formerly involved in dealing Iranian petrochemical products “as a result of a verified change in statues or behavior.”

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