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US designates four Houthi funders, despite delisting it as a terror group

"Observe the mental gymnastics here," wrote Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "Don’t try this at home, folks."

The “USS Carney” guided-missile destroyer defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau.
The “USS Carney” guided-missile destroyer defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau.

If it looks, swims and quacks like terrorism, it might not be classified by the U.S. State Department as a terror group, but evidently, Foggy Bottom can still designate its backers as funders of terrorism.

Washington raised eyebrows on Thursday when it designated one person and three entities for funding the Houthis, an Islamist movement in Yemen. The Iranian-backed group, which the United States delisted as a foreign terrorist entity in 2021, has been attacking targets in the southern Red Sea.

“Those designated today have facilitated the transfer of millions of dollars to the Houthis at the direction of U.S.-designated Sa’id al-Jamal, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force-backed Houthi financial facilitator based in Iran,” the State Department said.

“The Houthis’ continued attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have disrupted the free flow of commerce through the region and endangered innocent mariners,” it added. “Since October, the Houthis have launched numerous missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles at commercial vessels transiting near Yemen’s coastline, in clear violation of international law.”

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, advised: “Don’t try this at home, folks.”

“Observe the mental gymnastics here. The policy contortionists at State today issued designations on facilitators of Houthi terror,” he wrote. “Yet the Biden administration still refuses to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group.”

“Designations are nice and all,” wrote Boris Zilberman, director for public policy and strategy for Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Action Fund, but the announcement “highlights that the administration is still unwilling to re-designate the Houthis as a terror organization in the face of all evidence presented to them almost daily” and that “fighting missiles with designations is a losing battle.”

“What’s pathetic here is these sanctions are under EO 13224, but Biden revoked the Houthis’ EO 13224 designation in 2021 and still refuses to reinstate it,” wrote Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran.

Executive Order 13224 “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism,” according to the State Department.

It also “authorizes the U.S. government to block the assets of individuals and entities that provide support, services, or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists and terrorist organizations designated under the order, as well as their subsidiaries, front organizations, agents, and associates.”

The U.S. Treasury Department named those sanctioned as Al Aman Kargo Ithalat Ihracat Ve Nakliyat Limited Sirketi in Turkey, which “serves as a waypoint for money sent by the Houthis’ Iranian financiers to the group’s businesses in Yemen”; Nabco Money Exchange and Remittance Co., “a successor company to the U.S.-designated Al-Hadha Exchange Co. established after the U.S. sanctioned the exchange house”; Nabil Ali Ahmed Al-Hadha, who leads Nabco; and Al Rawda Exchange and Money Transfers Company in Yemen which converts the funds into Yemeni rials.

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