On May 20, the Biden administration sanctioned two Houthi military commanders leading the rebel offensive on Yemen’s Marib province. The Treasury sanctioned Muhammad Abd al Karim al Ghamari, the Head of the General Staff of the Houthi military. The State Department designated Yusuf al Madani, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. “We are promoting accountability for Houthi actions that perpetuate conflict in Yemen and undermine peace efforts, including the brutal and costly offensive targeting Marib,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The Houthis, also known as Ansarallah (“Supporters of God”), are Shiite rebels in Yemen allegedly supported by Iran. The Houthis took over the capital Sanaa in 2014 and seized control over much of north Yemen by 2016. “The Houthis benefit from generous military support from the Iranian government to wage attacks against civilian population centers and commercial shipping infrastructure in Yemen,” Blinken said.
Al Ghamari and al Madani oversaw the Houthi offensive in the gas-rich Marib province that began in February 2021. The province hosts nearly one million internally displaced persons. U.S. Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking told reporters that “there would be no need for designations” if the Houthis called off the Marib assault and committed to negotiating with the U.N. special envoy. “Marib is not going to fall any time in the foreseeable future,” Lenderking said. The Houthis “are putting the lives of one million at risk,” he added.
Al Ghamari had ties to Iran. He received military training from the Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives, the Treasury reported. He also procured and deployed drones and explosive devices. “Al Ghamari is directly responsible for overseeing Houthi military operations that have destroyed civilian infrastructure and Yemen’s neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” the Treasury said.
Yusuf al Madani was designated “for the significant risk he poses of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States,” Blinken said. Al Madani was previously commander of Houthi forces in four separate governates in Yemen: al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Al Mahwit and Raymah. He had previously been involved in ceasefire violations in al Hudaydah, a key port for humanitarian assistance. The following are statements by the Treasury and State Department on the sanctions.
Statement by the Treasury on May 20: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is taking action today against a key senior military official of Ansarallah, sometimes referred to as the Houthis, whose actions prolong Yemen’s civil war and exacerbate the country’s humanitarian crisis. Muhammad Abd Al Karim al Ghamari is responsible for orchestrating attacks by Houthi forces impacting Yemeni civilians. He has most recently taken charge of the large-scale Houthi offensive against Yemeni government-held territory in Marib province. Humanitarians have warned that the Marib offensive is contributing to a tipping point in Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, as it puts approximately one million already vulnerable internally displaced people (IDP) at risk, threatens to overwhelm an already stretched humanitarian response, and is triggering broader escalation. The civil war continues to result in widespread suffering throughout Yemen, where half the Yemeni population faces acute food shortages, in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“’As the senior Houthi military official, Muhammad Abd Al Karim al Ghamari is directly responsible for attacks on infrastructure that have harmed civilians and now oversees an offensive in Marib that compounds human suffering,’ said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki. ‘The United States will continue to hold Houthi leadership accountable for actions that contribute to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.’
“Today’s action is being taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13611, an authority aimed at blocking property of persons threatening the peace, security, or stability of Yemen.
“The Houthis, with the support of the Iranian government, continue to wage a bloody war against the internationally recognized Yemeni government using ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack bases, population centers, infrastructure, and commercial shipping. Iranian support through funding, training, and military equipment has allowed the Houthis to threaten Yemen’s neighbors and to conduct heinous attacks damaging civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
“As the Head of the General Staff of the Houthi armed forces, the most senior commander within the Houthi military leadership structure, Al Ghamari is directly responsible for overseeing Houthi military operations that have destroyed civilian infrastructure and Yemen’s neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He directs the procurement and deployment of various weapons, including improvised explosive devices, ammunition, and UAVs. Al Ghamari has also overseen Houthi UAV and missile attacks against Saudi Arabian targets. Al Ghamari reportedly received his military training in Houthi militia camps run by Lebanese Hizballah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Most recently, Al Ghamari replaced Abdul Khaleq al Houthi, the brother of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi, as Commander in Chief of the Houthi offensive in Marib. The Marib offensive is a push by the Houthis to capture control of the province from Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Marib has served as a bastion of stability for millions of Yemenis, hosting camps for close to one million IDPs. The offensive has already forced tens of thousands of these IDPs to evacuate and threatens to displace hundreds of thousands more if it continues. The Houthi offensive on Marib has been brutal, with reports of Houthi ballistic missile attacks impacting IDP camps and other civilian sites in Marib. Al Ghamari also participated in Houthi attacks on Saada in northwestern Yemen, and the 2014 capture of Yemen’s capital Sana’a. In 2015, he was appointed as head of the so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee and Houthi supervisor in Hajjah governorate.
“Basis for Designation
“Al Ghamari is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13611 for having engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the agreement of November 23, 2011, between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen, or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.
“In a separate action, the Department of State is designating Yusuf al Madani pursuant to E.O. 13224, a counterterrorism authority, on the basis that he poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Al Madani is a prominent Houthi military leader and is the commander of the fifth military zone in Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Al Mahwit, and Raymah, Yemen. Persistent Houthi repositioning and other violations of the Hudaydah ceasefire agreement threaten stability in a city that serves as a critical thoroughfare for humanitarian and essential commercial commodities, and one that faces some of the highest levels of humanitarian needs. Additionally, there are regular reports of Houthi attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in and around Hudaydah.
“As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of the persons designated that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.”
Statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 20: “Today, the United States is taking action against two senior leaders of Houthi forces in Yemen who are involved in military offensives that exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, pose a dire threat to civilians, and destabilize Yemen. In doing so, we are promoting accountability for Houthi actions that perpetuate conflict in Yemen and undermine peace efforts, including the brutal and costly offensive targeting Marib. These actions have come despite an unprecedented consensus among the international community and regional actors on the need for an immediate ceasefire and resumption of peace talks.
“The Houthis benefit from generous military support from the Iranian government to wage attacks against civilian population centers and commercial shipping infrastructure in Yemen, exacerbating conditions in what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst current humanitarian disasters. The United States is therefore “designating Muhammad Abd Al Karim al Ghamari pursuant to E.O. 13611 and designating Yusuf al Madani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. The Treasury announcement outlining the implications of these sanctions can be seen here: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0191
“Al Ghamari is being designated for his role in orchestrating attacks by Houthi forces impacting Yemeni civilians. He most recently took charge of the large-scale Houthi offensive against Yemeni government-held territory in Marib governorate, as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia and neighboring states. The Marib offensive is exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, as it puts approximately one million vulnerable internally displaced people at risk of being displaced yet again, threatens to overwhelm an already stretched humanitarian response, and is triggering broader escalation.
“Al Madani is being designated for the significant risk he poses of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Al Madani is a prominent leader of Houthi forces and is the commander of forces in Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Al Mahwit, and Raymah, Yemen. As of 2021, al Madani was assigned to the offensive targeting Marib. Persistent Houthi repositioning and other violations of the ceasefire provisions of the Hudaydah Agreement have destabilized a city that serves as a critical thoroughfare for humanitarian and essential commercial commodities. Additionally, there are regular reports of Houthi attacks impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in and around Hudaydah, further exacerbating the situation for Yemenis facing some of the highest levels of humanitarian need in the country.
“We call on the Houthis to immediately cease all attacks and military offensives, especially their offensive against Marib, which only causes more suffering for the Yemeni people. We urge them to refrain from destabilizing actions and to engage in UN Special Envoy’s efforts to achieve peace.
“It is time to end this conflict.”