Biden Administration Sanctions Houthi Finance Network

February 24, 2022 Topic: Houthis Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: YemenHouthisIRGCYemen WarSanctions

Biden Administration Sanctions Houthi Finance Network

The sanctions follow a series of Houthi attacks on civilian targets Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed a new round of sanctions on members of a financial network allegedly involved in financing the Houthi rebel movement in northern Yemen. The Treasury Department announced the new sanctions on Wednesday, alleging in a statement that the group had “transferred tens of millions of dollars to Yemen via a complex international network of intermediaries in support of the Houthis’ attacks.”

The sanctions target front companies and ships associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite Iranian military branch that has been involved in smuggling and other efforts to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tehran has long supported the Houthis by providing weapons, funding, and advisers to the group.

The Houthis have caused controversy in recent months by carrying out a series of drone and missile attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the two main participants in the international Arab coalition fighting against the Houthis in Yemen. A coordinated attack against Abu Dhabi led to three civilian deaths, prompting an international outcry and a series of reprisal strikes against Houthi targets from the Emirati and Saudi air forces. It also led the Biden administration to reconsider its decision to delist the Houthis as a terrorist group in early February, a move that advocates argued made it easier to deliver humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people.

Despite the terror delisting, the United States continues to strongly oppose the Houthi movement. And although Washington no longer directly participates in the Arab coalition’s offensive operations, it has continued to assist Saudi and Emirati anti-missile defenses.

"Despite pleas to negotiate an end to this devastating conflict, Houthi leaders continue to launch missile and unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against Yemen’s neighbors, killing innocent civilians, while millions of Yemeni civilians remain displaced and hungry,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian E. Nelson wrote in the statement. The statement named Sa’id al-Jamal, an Iran-based banker, as the primary financier of the Houthi movement. Al-Jamal has faced U.S. sanctions since June 2021, and the new sanctions have been imposed on top of existing measures that sharply restrict the Houthis’ access to U.S. financial networks.

Roughly 80 percent of Yemen’s population lives in Houthi-controlled areas in the north, while the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi controls much of the sparsely populated south and east. More than 350,000 people have died in the eight-year conflict, including at least 80,000 children.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.