US slaps sanctions on two Houthi commanders, upping pressure on Iran-backed group

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The Biden administration announced sanctions on two Houthi leaders Tuesday, weeks after revoking the terror designation on the Iran-backed group.

The Treasury Department said Mansour al-Saadi and Ahmad Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi were being sanctioned for being responsible for “orchestrating attacks by Houthi forces impacting Yemeni civilians, bordering nations, and commercial vessels in international waters.”

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Admitting that the Houthis were working to advance the Iranian regime’s “destabilizing agenda,” the US said the group was fueling the conflict in Yemen, “displacing more than one million people and pushing Yemen to the brink of famine.”

Tuesday’s move comes after widespread criticism against the Biden administration for taking a soft stance on Iran and its proxies around the region.

Former President Donald Trump designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization, but one of the Biden administration's first foreign policy moves was to revoke the designation. This also included removing the group leader and two other senior officials from the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.

However, Biden administration officials have continuously defended their decision. They have said the “blanket designation” would further deteriorate the already devastating humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.

Washington has said it would end support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in Yemen, with Tuesday’s sanctions being the first step by the Biden administration to hold the Houthis accountable.

“The United States condemns the destruction of civilian sites by the Houthi militants designated today. These individuals command forces that are worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Andrea Gacki said. “The United States remains committed to promoting accountability of Houthi leadership for their actions, which have contributed to the extraordinary suffering of the Yemeni people.”

On Monday, the State Department hinted that it was going to hold the Houthis accountable for their actions in Yemen.

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