Defense

Treasury Sanctions Iranian Officials Over Ballistic Missile Support To Yemen Rebels

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped sanctions on Iranian officials accused of helping Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps supply rebels in Yemen with ballistic missiles, the latest move in Washington’s campaign to confront Tehran.

The new penalties apply to five officials with “links to Iran’s ballistic missile program” and will freeze all their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Overseas firms and individuals who do business with them will be subject to secondary sanctions, Treasury said, effectively locking the officials out of the international financial system.

“The United States will not tolerate Iranian support for Houthi rebels who are attacking our close partner, Saudi Arabia,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “All countries in the region should be on guard to prevent Iran from sending its personnel, weapons, and funds in support of its proxies in Yemen.”

The latest round of sanctions against Iranian officials comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a list of demands related to Tehran’s nuclear program and support for proxy forces in the Middle East. Iran must meet all of Washington’s requirements to avoid the “strongest sanctions in history,” Pompeo said Monday in a speech at the Heritage foundation. (RELATED: Pompeo Warns Of ‘Strongest Sanctions In History’ If Iran Doesn’t Meet US Demands)

Among the demands relating to Iran’s non-nuclear activity is that Tehran stop all military support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Gulf Arab states, backed by U.S. intelligence and logistical support, has been battling the Houthis since 2015, when the Shiite rebel group overthrew Yemen’s Saudi-friendly government. Like many Mideast conflicts, the war in Yemen has become something of a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Tehran accused of giving the Houthis ballistic missiles, mines and other weapons.

The individuals targeted in Tuesday’s sanctions are either senior officials in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or have acted to assist its ballistic missile transfers, according Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list. Their actions have allowed the Houthis to fire on a U.S warship in the Red Sea and launch ballistic missiles at Riyadh and other cities in Saudi Arabia, Treasury says.

“Their actions have enabled the Huthis to launch missiles at Saudi cities and oil infrastructure,” Mnuchin said. “They have also disrupted humanitarian aid efforts in Yemen, and threatened freedom of navigation in key regional waterways.”

Critics say the Trump administration is focusing on Iran’s support of the Houthi movement in order to deflect criticism from the Saudi-led coalition, which has been accused of war crimes in connection with its brutal bombing campaign and blockade of Yemeni ports. It is the coalition, not Iran, that is escalating the conflict in Yemen and is largely responsible for the humanitarian disaster there, according to The American Conservative senior editor Daniel Larison.

“If all Iranian support stopped tomorrow, the war wouldn’t end because Iran’s involvement has always been minimal,” he wrote Tuesday. “Meanwhile, the U.S. has been unstinting in providing the intervening coalition governments with weapons, fuel, and intelligence to wage their atrocious war.”

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