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8 Dec, 2020 20:27

US slaps sanctions on Iranian envoy to Yemen's Houthi rebels

US slaps sanctions on Iranian envoy to Yemen's Houthi rebels

Washington has imposed terrorism-related sanctions on Iran's envoy to the Houthi rebels, claiming that his recent appointment shows Tehran's unwillingness to resolve the five-year conflict in Yemen.

By sending envoy Hasan Irlu to Yemen, Iran became the first nation to officially recognize the Houthis' rule in the country. The appointment “demonstrates the Iranian regime's indifference to resolving the conflict, which has led to the widespread suffering of millions of Yemenis,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury described Irlu as a high-ranking official of Iran's elite Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who took an active part in providing Yemeni rebels with advanced weapons and training during the conflict.

The envoy was also claimed to have links to Qassem Soleimani, the senior Iranian military commander whose assassination in a US drone strike in early 2020 set Tehran and Washington on the brink of an all-out war.

Restrictions were also placed on Al-Mustafa International University, based in the Iranian city of Qom, for allegedly using its branches around the globe as a Quds Force recruitment platform for intelligence gathering and operations.

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Iran-based Pakistani citizen, Yousef Ali Muraj, was blacklisted over accusations of taking part in Quds Force efforts to execute operations in the Middle East and the US.

Irlu, Muraj and the university were sanctioned under US Executive Order 13224, aimed against those suspected of terrorist activities. All of their assists coming under US jurisdiction will now be blocked, with American citizens prohibited from doing any business with the blacklisted individuals and entities.

The US and its ally, Saudi Arabia, which has been waging a major bombing campaign in Yemen since 2015, view the Shia Houthis rebels as an extension of Iranian influence in the Gulf. Earlier this month, reports emerged that the Trump administration was considering designating the Yemeni rebels a terrorist organization.

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The conflict in Yemen, which has killed thousands and put 24 million people in need of humanitarian aid, has been in deadlock for years. The Houthis maintain control over capital Sanaa and most large urban centers after ousting the country's Sunni president. UN efforts to bring the warring sides back to the negotiations table have so far been in vain.

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