The U.S. leveled sanctions Thursday against a Yemeni network that the U.S. government claims was cooperating with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to illicitly transfer tens of millions of dollars to Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
The Biden administration also announced it was lifting sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies that it said had been involved in banned petroleum sales, saying the U.S. had “verified a change in status or behavior” on their part.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced both moves in a statement. They come as the Biden administration is trying both to press the Iranian-linked Yemen rebels into peace talks for the war in Yemen, and to close a deal returning the United States and Iran to an accord on Iran’s nuclear program.
The money moving through the alleged Houthi financing network came from sales of Iranian petroleum and other commodities throughout the Middle East, Blinken said.
International officials and analysts say Iran has increased its material support to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as the war in the Arab nation passes the six-year mark. A Saudi-led coalition is trying to hold off the Houthis, who seized the country’s capital and are waging an offensive now to capture a major northern city, in defiance of U.S. and U.N. calls for a ceasefire.
The new U.S. action designates 11 Yemeni individuals, alleged front companies and intermediaries and vessels involved in what it said were the illicit transfers.
The 11 included Jami’ ’Ali Muhammad, a Houthi and alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard associate who the United States says helped “procure vessels, facilitate shipments of fuel, and transfer funds for the benefit of the Houthis,” the U.S. said.
The 2015 nuclear deal is based on Iran limiting development of its nuclear program in return for the U.S. and others lifting sanctions against Iran. Ongoing talks in Vienna have focused partly on timing of the U.S. lifting sanctions and Iranians returning to compliance.
The Biden administration release said lifting of sanctions against the three former Iran officials and two companies demonstrates “our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons. ”
Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers allowed it to sell crude oil again on the international market. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, leading Iran into clandestinely taking its oil abroad and selling it.