Crime & Justice

US sanctions Yemen smuggling network funding IRGC, Houthis

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi

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Houthi fighters chant slogans as they ride a military vehicle in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. [Mohammed HUWAIS / AFP]

ADEN -- The United States on Thursday (June 10) sanctioned members of a smuggling network that helps fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and the Houthis, in a move welcomed by Yemen's government.

Led by Iran-based Houthi financier Said al-Jamal, the network generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of commodities, such as Iranian petroleum, the US Treasury said.

A significant portion of this revenue is then directed through "a complex network of intermediaries and exchange houses in multiple countries to the Houthis in Yemen", the Treasury said.

The 11 other individuals, companies and vessel sanctioned along with al-Jamal "play key roles in this illicit network", the US State Department said.

They include Yemeni accountant Hani Abd-al-Majid Muhammad Asad, who has facilitated financial transfers to the Houthis, and Jami Ali Muhammad, a Houthi and IRGC-QF associate who helped al-Jamal procure vessels, it said.

According to the US Treasury, al-Jamal directs a network of front companies and vessels that smuggle Iranian fuel, petroleum products and other commodities to customers throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

A significant portion of the revenue is directed through a complex international network of intermediaries and exchange houses to the Houthis in Yemen and helps to fund the Houthis, IRGC-QF, and others, including Hizbullah.

Network undermines peace efforts

"This network's financial support enables the Houthis' deplorable attacks threatening civilian and critical infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia," said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"These attacks undermine efforts to bring the conflict to an end and, most tragically, starve tens of millions of innocent civilians," Gacki said.

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

Since the onset of the conflict in Yemen, the Houthis have relied on support from the IRGC-QF to wage their campaign against the Yemeni government and the Arab coalition that is supporting it, the Treasury said.

"The Houthis have used ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to strike military targets, population centres, infrastructure, and nearby commercial shipping in Saudi Arabia, along key international trade routes," it said.

"The United States is working to help resolve the conflict in Yemen and bring lasting humanitarian relief to the Yemeni people," the State Department said.

Government welcomes the move

Yemen's Minister of Legal Affairs and Human Rights Ahmed Arman told Al-Mashareq he welcomed the US sanctions against Houthi leaders and their supporters.

"We call upon the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to take firmer and more serious punitive measures against the Houthis for the crimes they're committing against the Yemeni people," he said.

Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi said he believed that targeting the network is a means of pressuring the Houthis to engage in the peace talks and shows the United States is serious about its commitment to ending the war.

"These sanctions are a message from the US administration to the Houthi militia, to the effect that lifting their names from the terrorist list won't be a blank cheque," he said.

Political analyst Mahmoud al-Taher told Al-Mashareq that "sanctioning a Houthi leader is a part of new US pressures on the militia to accept the international community's initiatives to end the war".

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