The US Treasury Department issued new counter-terrorism sanctions against individuals and entities linked to the Iran-backed Houthis on Thursday.
The US designated 13 individuals and entities for providing funds generated from sale of Iranian commodities to the Houthis in Yemen. “Attacks launched from Houthi-controlled areas have also threatened US warships operating in international waters,” State Department Spokesman Matt Miller said.
Ballistic missiles and other projectiles have been shot down by US warships in the region after heading in their direction, Pentagon officials have said. However, the US officials have stopped short of saying the Houthis were targeting US assets in the region. Houthi attacks have reached Israel. The Houthis have also shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone – which costs a little over $30 million – off the coast of Yemen.
Miller added that the Iranian regime’s support to the Houthis had enabled unprovoked attacks on civilian infrastructure in Israel and on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. He said these attacks would increase regional instability, and risk broadening the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the Houthis continue to receive funding and support from Iran. He added: “The result is unsurprising: unprovoked attacks on civilian infrastructure and commercial shipping, disrupting maritime security and threatening international commercial trade.”
In October, the US military destroyed several missiles and drones that it says were launched by the Houthis, heading north and potentially targeting Israel.
The Pentagon said the USS Carney destroyer was in the northern Red Sea at the time when it made the decision to foil the Houthi attacks.
The Biden administration removed the Houthis and group officials from terror blacklists shortly after President Joe Biden took office. Last year, Biden said he was reconsidering designating the group following multiple attacks on the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi.
Biden administration officials have publicly said they are considering the move again after their latest attacks. But in private, US officials have voiced opposition to such a decision, saying it would derail the fragile truce reached inside of Yemen, which has seen the internationally-recognized government fighting the Houthis for years.
US forces in the Middle East have faced an increase in attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.
US forces have been attacked over 60 times since Oct. 17 in both Iraq and Syria, leading to dozens of US servicemembers being injured. All have returned to duty.