US hits alleged financing ring linking Yemen rebels, Iran

Jun 10, 2021, 1:42 PM | Updated: 2:08 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. leveled sanctions Thursday against a Yemeni network that it claims was cooperating with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to illicitly transfer tens of millions of dollars to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

At the same time, the Biden administration also announced it was lifting sanctions on three former Iranian oil executives 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. Neither the State Department nor the Treasury Department would elaborate further on the reason for the de-listings.

The departments of State and Treasury announced both moves in simultaneous statements that come as the administration is trying both to press the Iranian-linked Yemen rebels into peace talks for the war in Yemen, and 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, Secretary of State Antony 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 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 with the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

The administration said the lifting of sanctions on the three former officials and two companies is unrelated to the indirect discussions in Vienna that are to resume this weekend.

“There is no linkage, there is no connection to the de-listings that we announced today to the JCPOA or to negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. However, he was unable to offer a complete explanation of the reasons behind the move, other than it was made in response to a petition for the removals.

“These petitions are reviewed very carefully,” he said. “They are verified by experts to ensure that the information put forward is factual, that it is accurate, and only after we have verified the information put forward in petitions would we undertake a de-listing. In the case of these three individuals it was the result of our ability to verify that there was a change in status or a change in behavior that allowed us to undertake this de-listing.”

Price added that the step demonstrates “our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons.” He said that practice is “consistent with good sanctions hygiene and administrative processes.”

Still, he could not say what the “change in status” or “change in behavior” had been, and Iran’s national oil company, NIOC, and a number of other affiliates remain under U.S. sanctions. Sanctions have been removed in the past because a target has died, retired or otherwise left their position but there was no indication any of those had happened.

Critics of the nuclear deal and the administration’s intent to return to it immediately denounced the lifting of sanctions as a concession in the absence of anything in return from Iran, and while Tehran continues to ignore demands from the U.N. atomic watchdog to explain elements of its nuclear program.

“The Biden administration should not be offering Iran sanctions relief at a time when Tehran is refusing to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into its nuclear program,” said Andea Stricker, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Unfortunately, the U.S. just signaled that it is buckling on sanctions relief and the IAEA investigation before a deal is even reached. Iran will be sure to seize on this concession and try to get more.”

The sanctions against Ahmad Ghalebani, a managing director of NIOC, two directors of NIOC affiliates and those companies had been imposed in 2013 by the Obama administration.

The 2015 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.

___

Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Chinese envoy expresses concern over US tariffs with Yellen

BEIJING (AP) — China’s envoy to trade war talks with Washington expressed concern about U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports during a phone call Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the Ministry of Commerce announced, but it gave no indication of progress toward resolving an array of conflicts. Vice Premier Liu He and Yellen also discussed […]
23 hours ago
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index ...
Associated Press

Asia shares rise on optimism about easing COVID restrictions

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares advanced Monday across the board as buying set in after the lull of a U.S. national holiday. Analysts said the optimism may be driven by expectations the U.S. may decide to cut Chinese tariffs, a welcome move that would also help tame inflation. China’s Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that Vice […]
23 hours ago
A man paddles on a stand-up paddle board through a flooded street at Windsor on the outskirts of Sy...
Associated Press

Australian central bank boosts rate for 3rd month in a row

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s central bank on Tuesday lifted its benchmark interest rate for a third time in three straight months, changing the cash rate to 1.35% from 0.85%. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s half a percentage point rise was the same size as its June increase. When the bank lifted the rate by […]
23 hours ago
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index ...
Associated Press

Asia shares rise on optimism about easing COVID restrictions

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares advanced Monday across the board as buying set in after the lull of a U.S. national holiday. Analysts said the optimism may be driven by expectations the U.S. may decide to cut Chinese tariffs, a welcome move that would also help tame inflation. China’s Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that Vice […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks in Leavenworth, Kan., on July 8, 2019. K...
Associated Press

Kobach looks for comeback in Kansas after losing 2 big races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters have said no to him twice over the past four years. But Kris Kobach is nonetheless betting that this can be the year he makes a political comeback. His losses, including a 2018 defeat that handed the governor’s office in this Republican-leaning state to a Democrat, might end other […]
23 hours ago
Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Brian Dahle, left, talks with fellow GOP state Sen. A...
Associated Press

Newsom’s opponent: I’m reasonable, not a ‘crazy Republican’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Brian Dahle, the Republican Party’s longshot hope to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in California, knows that to win in his progressive home state he can’t allow Democrats to label him as an election denying, abortion-hating, gun-loving, bombastic right-winger. It’s why Dahle, an affable farmer and state senator from the sparsely populated […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
US hits alleged financing ring linking Yemen rebels, Iran