UK sanctions backers of Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

The deputy commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and a Houthi minister have been sanctioned by the UK and US for enabling Yemen’s militant group.

The Iran-backed rebels have been responsible for attacks on international commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

In announcing the measures on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said Tehran’s regime bears responsibility for the assaults because of the “extensive military support” it has provided to the Houthis.

The sanctions target two individuals and three organisations for their role in giving financial or military support to the militants, as well as a Houthi security minister for backing the attacks along the major trade route.

Some are affiliated with the IRGC Quds Force, which is believed to handle Tehran’s relationship with, and arming of, regional militias.

They are now subject to UK travel bans and/or asset freezes, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

It comes as several rounds of missile strikes by the UK and US against Houthi targets in Yemen have done little to deter the group’s attacks in the Red Sea.

Lord Cameron said: “The attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis are unacceptable, illegal and a threat to innocent lives and freedom of navigation.

“As I have made clear to the Iranian foreign minister, the regime bears responsibility for these attacks due to the extensive military support it has provided to the Houthis.

“All those who seek to undermine regional stability should know that the UK, alongside our allies, will not hesitate to act.”

Those sanctioned have been identified as:

– Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh – deputy commander of the IRGC Quds Force

– Sa’id al-Jamal – Iran-based financier who heads a network of front companies and vessels that generate revenue for the Houthis

– IRGC Quds Force Unit 190 – in charge of transferring and smuggling weapons to organisations, groups and states allied with Iran

– IRGC Quds Force Unit 6000 – in charge of operations on the Arabian Peninsula and has personnel on the ground in Yemen supporting Houthi military activity

– IRGC Quds Force Unit 340 – in charge of research and development and providing training and technical support to groups backed by Iran

– Ali Hussein Badr Al Din Al-Houthi – Houthi undersecretary of the interior and commander of the security forces

It is the second tranche of UK-US sanctions slapped on Houthis or their enablers since their attacks on Red Sea shipping began in November.