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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

US sanctions five Iranians over ballistic missile deliveries to Yemen’s Houthis

The United States Treasury on Monday targeted five Iranians with sanctions over providing rebel Houthis with ballistic missile expertise in Yemen.

It is the latest in US actions against Iran since it withdrew from the nuclear deal on May 8.

A day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised harsher sanctions on Iran that target its proxies and regional behaviour, the Trump administration released the Yemen-related measures. The five individuals targeted are Mahmud Bagheri Kazemabad, Javad Amin, Sayyed Tehrani, Mehdi Azarpisheh and Mohammad Ja’fari.

Those individuals are accused of having “provided ballistic missile-related technical expertise to Yemen’s Houthis, and who have transferred weapons not seen in Yemen prior to the current conflict, on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)”.

The sanctions, according to the statement follow "the United Nations Panel of Experts’ affirmation in late January, that missiles and other military equipment employed by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia were Iranian-origin”. It also references Houthi attempts at targeting Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport and a US Navy ship operating in international waters, as recently as May 9.

“The United States will not tolerate Iranian support for Houthi rebels who are attacking our close partner, Saudi Arabia," said US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin. "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.”

Those actions the statement said, follow “targeting of the Iranian regime’s abuse of the Iraqi and Emirati financial systems”. On May 10, the UAE and US disrupted a multi-million-dollar network that was allowing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to access funds. The UAE listed nine individuals and entities on its terrorism list.

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As US President Donald Trump made clear in his May 8 decision to cease US participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the US is taking action to neutralise Iran’s campaign of regional aggression. Earlier this month, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into Israel, again discrediting Tehran’s claim that its forces deployed abroad are enabling peace.

Likewise, the IRGC’s ongoing efforts to arm and assist the Houthis exacerbate the conflict in Yemen. The latest sanctions come after a Houthi missile fired at the Yemeni city of Marib on Tuesday killed seven civilians, including children.

Mr Kazemabad and Mr Ja’fari have acted “on behalf of the IRGC Aerospace Forces Al Ghadir Missile Command (ASF AGMC)”, according to the Treasury statement. One is the commander and Mr Ja’fari is a senior official. “These two individuals oversee the transfer of missile components and the deployment of ballistic missile specialists across the region in support of the IRGC’s activities.”

Mr Amin is also identified as an IRGC ASF official, while Mr Azarpisheh and Mr Tehrani are said to act on behalf of the IRGC.

sIran has denied providing ballistic missiles or expertise to the Houthis.