Washington announced new sanctions on two senior officials in Yemen’s Houthi militia on Tuesday, condemning the Iran-backed group for advancing “the Iranian regime’s destabilizing agenda.”
Last month, the Biden administration lifted the US terror designation against the Houthis and removed its leader and two other senior figures from the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.
The latest sanctions announcement targeted two separate leaders: Mansour al-Saadi and Ahmad Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi.
The pair are accused of orchestrating attacks against Yemeni civilians, bordering nations, and commercial vessels in international waters, the US Treasury Department said.
“Iran’s involvement in Yemen fans the flames of the conflict, threatening greater escalation, miscalculation, and regional instability. [The Houthis] use Iranian weapons, intelligence, training, and support to conduct attacks threatening civilian targets and infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
But who are the two individuals sanctioned, and what role do they play in the Houthi militia?
Al-Saadi is the Houthi naval chief of staff, who the US says has “masterminded” lethal attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea.
The group has also been accused of placing mines on civilian and military vessels throughout the region. “According to international human rights organizations, the use of naval mines in the Yemen civil war poses a risk to commercial, fishing, and humanitarian aid vessels,” the US said.
According to the Treasury Department, Al-Saadi has received extensive training in Iran and helped smuggle Iranian weapons into Yemen.
Ahmad Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi
Al-Hamzi is the air force commander of the group and also leads its UAV (drone) program. He has also received Iranian-made weapons for use in the Yemen war. “Houthi military forces under Major General Ahmad ‘Ali al-Hamzi’s command have carried out targeted UAV strikes. Like Al-Sa’adi, al-Hamzi has received training in Iran,” the Treasury Department said.
Most notably, the Houthis target Saudi Arabia and civilians inside the country daily.
On Sunday, Arab Coalition spokesperson Turki al-Maliki told Al Arabiya that Saudi Arabia had intercepted 526 drones and 346 ballistic missiles in recent years.
And on Tuesday, the Houthis launched a military projectile missile towards the Jazan region, located in the southwestern part of Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border.
At least five people were injured in the attack when the missile fell in a public street. Three Saudi Arabian citizens and two Yemenis were transferred to a hospital for treatment.