Iran sanctions US envoy to Yemen in retaliation for US blacklisting

The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced sanctions on Christopher Henzel, the US ambassador to Yemen.

al-monitor US Embassy Charge d'Affaires Christopher Henzel is seen on April 19, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during a meeting between King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and top US officials (not seen). Henzel is now the US ambassador to Yemen. Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/AFP via Getty Images.

Dec 10, 2020

Iran on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the US envoy to Yemen, a largely symbolic gesture that followed the Trump administration's sanctioning of the Iranian ambassador to the Houthi rebels. 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was blacklisting the US ambassador to Yemen, Christopher Henzel, for his role "organizing, offering financial and weapons support, leading and contributing to the actions committed by the coalition attacking Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war on behalf of the internationally recognized government in 2015 and is now leading a coalition of Arab states fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The US military provides logistical and intelligence assistance to the Saudis and until 2018 had refueled coalition aircraft in Yemen. 

Henzel’s sanctioning follows an announcement from the US State Department on Tuesday that it had blacklisted Hasan Irlu. The department described him as a member of Iran’s elite Quds Force recently sent to the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa to serve as the liaison of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)  to the rebel government. 

“By dispatching Irlu to Yemen, the IRGC-QF is signaling its intent to increase support to the Houthis and further complicate international efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict,” Secretary of State Pompeo said in a statement

The administration also imposed sanctions on Iran’s Al-Mustafa International University for allegedly using its foreign branches to recruit students to join the IRGC and its militias in the region. 

In the waning days of Trump's presidency, the administration has steadily piled sanctions on Iran in what observers say is an effort to make it harder for President-elect Joe Biden to reenter the landmark nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. If Iran returns to strict compliance under the agreement, Biden has said he will seek to rejoin the accord as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings