Special envoy to Yemen visits Middle East as US cracks down on Houthis

Tim Lenderking meets US regional partners to discuss safeguarding maritime security in Red Sea, official tells The National

People in Yemen visit the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by the Houthis in the Red Sea last month. EPA
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US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking is currently travelling in the Middle East, he told The National, as Washington intensifies efforts to stabilise the situation in the Red Sea.

He is “meeting with partners to continue intensive US diplomacy and regional co-ordination to safeguard maritime security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden”.

His visit coincides with Washington on Thursday issuing its first round of Houthi-targeted sanctions since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war.

US President Joe Biden's administration imposed sanctions on 13 people and entities over claims they have provided “tens of millions of dollars” in Iran-linked funds to the rebel group in Yemen.

Washington and its allies are moving to counter a mounting threat in the Red Sea from the Iran-aligned Houthis – a new development related to the war in Gaza that could affect international trade.

The White House believes that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is helping the Houthis to carry out their attacks on vessels in the high-traffic maritime region.

A State Department official, speaking to The National on background, said that recent escalations in the Red Sea are “threatening almost two years of joint progress to end the war in Yemen”.

“Escalation and regional war in the Middle East is not good for peace in Yemen,” the official added.

Earlier on Thursday, the White House said the administration was working with “like-minded nations” to ramp up efforts to combat maritime activity by Iran and proxy groups in the Red Sea.

“Our focus at this time, is ensuring that there are sufficient military assets in place to deter these Houthi threats to maritime trade in the Red Sea and in the surrounding waters to the global economy writ large,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke with Saudi Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman to “discuss Houthi threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea” and to convey “his desire to work with all nations who share an interest in upholding the principle of freedom of navigation and ensuring safe passage for global shipping”, the Pentagon said.

Updated: December 08, 2023, 5:35 PM