The US government on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an international network run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for funnelling tens of millions of dollars to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The complex web of individuals and front companies shipped fuel, additional petroleum products and other commodities throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with the proceeds financing Houthi attacks in Yemen and its neighbours, the US Treasury said.
“Despite persistent calls for peace from the international community, the Houthis continue their destructive campaign inside Yemen and have repeatedly launched ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that have struck civilian infrastructure in neighbouring states, resulting in civilian casualties,” Treasury said in a statement.
The move came after close co-ordination with Gulf partners, Treasury said. The UAE news agency Wam said the country's Cabinet had designated one individual and five entities as "terrorists for their association with financing terrorism".
"The decision comes within the framework of the UAE's keenness to target and disrupt networks associated with the financing of terrorism and its associated activities," Wam said.
Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson urged the Houthi leadership to end its campaign of violence and negotiate an end to the seven-year war.
“The United States continues to work with our regional allies to act decisively against those who would seek to prolong this war [in Yemen] for their own ambitions,” Mr Nelson said.
The main financier named in the sanctions is Said Al Jamal, who “directs a web of front companies and vessels that smuggle fuel, petroleum products and other commodities to customers throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia”, the Treasury statement said.
His network, the US says, is aided by Abdi Nasir Ali Mahamud, who operates in Turkey; Abdo Abdullah Dael Ahmed, who operates in the Gulf and Sweden; and Greek businessman Konstantinos Stavridis.
A Turkey-based company, Garanti Ihracat Ithalat Kuyumculuk Dis Ticaret Limited Sirketi, was also named in the sanctions, with the Treasury Department saying it “has facilitated millions of dollars’ worth of transactions for Al Jamal, including transfers in support of oil shipments to China and Syria".
The statement noted that Syrian regime-affiliated and Treasury-designated businessman Muhammad Bara Qatirji has used Garanti Ihracat to send millions of dollars to the network to enable oil shipments.
Another company accused of aiding the network is Aurum Ship Management, which operates in the Gulf and South Asia.
“Employees of Aurum have bribed flagging authorities to ignore sanctions-evasion activities by ships in the Al Jamal network. Aurum has also managed ships transferring oil to Houthi-controlled ports in Yemen,” the Treasury Department said.
The sanctions follow increased US pressure on the Houthis and a recent trip by senior White House official Brett McGurk to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The two countries have urged President Joe Biden's administration to redesignate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation.