U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  (REUTERS)

May 22, 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused the Houthi militias of benefiting from “generous military support” from the Iranian government to launch attacks against civilian population centers and commercial infrastructure in Yemen, aggravating the conditions, which are already known as “the world’s worst current humanitarian disasters.”

In a press statement on Thursday, Blinken encouraged accountability for Houthis’ actions, “which perpetuate conflict in Yemen and undermine peace efforts, including the brutal and costly offensive targeting Marib.”

He noted that the Treasury Department’s designation of two Houthi leaders on the sanctions list came following an unprecedented consensus between the international community and regional actors on the need for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks.

“The Houthis benefit from generous military support from the Iranian government to wage attacks against civilian population centers and commercial shipping infrastructure in Yemen, exacerbating conditions in what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst current humanitarian disasters,” the US Secretary of State said.

He noted that Executive Orders No. 13611 and 13224, on which the Treasury Department relied to impose sanctions on the two Houthi leaders, were the result of the humanitarian crimes they committed against the Yemeni people.

Muhammad Abd Al-Karim “Al-Ghamari is being designated for his role in orchestrating attacks by Houthi forces impacting Yemeni civilians. He most recently took charge of the large-scale Houthi offensive against Yemeni government-held territory in Marib governorate, as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia and neighboring states. The Marib offensive is exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, as it puts approximately one million vulnerable internally displaced people at risk of being displaced yet again, threatens to overwhelm an already stretched humanitarian response, and is triggering broader escalation,” Blinken underlined.

Regarding sanctions against Houthi official Yusuf Al-Madani, Blinken explained that he was designated on the sanctions list because of the significant risks he posed by committing terrorist acts that threaten “the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

“Al-Madani is a prominent leader of Houthi forces and the commander of forces in Hodeidah, Hajjah, Al Mahwit, and Raymah, Yemen. As of 2021, Al-Madani was assigned to the offensive targeting Marib,” he remarked.

Blinken added: “Persistent Houthi repositioning and other violations of the ceasefire provisions of the Hodeidah Agreement have destabilized a city that serves as a critical thoroughfare for humanitarian and essential commercial commodities.”

He pointed to regular international reports on Houthi attacks, which affect civilians and civilian infrastructure in and around Hodeidah, further exacerbating the situation for Yemenis, who face some of the highest levels of humanitarian needs in the country.

“We call on the Houthis to immediately cease all attacks and military offensives, especially their offensive against Marib, which only causes more suffering for the Yemeni people. We urge them to refrain from destabilizing actions and to engage in UN Special Envoy’s efforts to achieve peace. It is time to end this conflict,” Blinken concluded.

For its part, the US Treasury said that the Houthis, “with the support of the Iranian government, continue to wage a bloody war against the internationally recognized Yemeni government using ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack bases, population centers, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”

It added: “Iranian support through funding, training, and military equipment has allowed the Houthis to threaten Yemen’s neighbors and to conduct heinous attacks damaging civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.”

In a statement on Thursday, the US Treasury said Al-Ghamari was sanctioned as “the Head of the General Staff of the Houthi armed forces, the most senior commander within the Houthi military leadership structure”, who is responsible “for overseeing Houthi military operations that have destroyed civilian infrastructure and Yemen’s neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

The statement continued: “[Al-Ghamari] directs the procurement and deployment of various weapons, including improvised explosive devices, ammunition, and UAVs.”

He has also “overseen Houthi UAV and missile attacks against Saudi Arabian targets (…), and reportedly received his military training in Houthi militia camps run by Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

“Most recently, Al-Ghamari replaced Abdul Khaleq al Houthi, the brother of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi, as Commander in Chief of the Houthi offensive in Marib. The Marib offensive is a push by the Houthis to capture control of the province from Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Marib has served as a bastion of stability for millions of Yemenis, hosting camps for close to one million IDPs. The offensive has already forced tens of thousands of these IDPs to evacuate and threatens to displace hundreds of thousands more if it continues (…). Al-Ghamari also participated in Houthi attacks on Saada in northwestern Yemen, and the 2014 capture of Yemen’s capital Sanaa. In 2015, he was appointed as head of the so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee and Houthi supervisor in Hajjah governorate,” according to the Treasury.

In a press conference, Tim Lenderking, the US envoy to Yemen, has said: “If there were no offensive, if there were a commitment to peace, if the parties are all showing up to deal constructively with the UN envoy, there would be no need for designations.”

Following the announcement of the sanctions against the Houthi leaders, Lenderking stressed that the international community has become more concerned about the Houthis’ use of violence in Yemen.

“The Houthis are not winning in Marib and, instead, they’re putting a great deal of stress on an already very fragile humanitarian situation,” he added.

He also warned that the Houthi group’s designation on the US terrorism list was linked to its behavior, saying that the US was constantly evaluating the situation and was ready to take the appropriate action.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.