US blacklists Iranians for allegedly providing missile tech to Yemen's Huthis

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Washington (AFP)

The US Treasury blacklisted five Iranians who allegedly supplied ballistic missile technology to Yemen's Huthi rebels Tuesday, a day after Washington warned Tehran it faced the "strongest sanctions in history."

The Treasury said the five placed on its sanctions list were linked to an operation by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to support Huthi attacks on cities in Saudi Arabia, which leads the Gulf coalition fighting the Yemeni rebels.

According to Riyadh, the Huthis have launched more than 130 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia since 2015, many of them intercepted by anti-missile defense systems.

In November last year they launched a missile which reached Riyadh, and the attacks have increased this year.

Iran has denied supplying missiles to the Huthis, while the group has insisted that they developed the missiles themselves.

But the United States says it has irrefutable evidence of Iran's involvement.

Actions by the Revolutionary Guards "have enabled the Huthis to launch missiles at Saudi cities and oil infrastructure," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a statement.

"The United States will not tolerate Iranian support for Huthi rebels who are attacking our close partner, Saudi Arabia. All countries in the region should be on guard to prevent Iran from sending its personnel, weapons, and funds in support of its proxies in Yemen," he said.

Four of the five men hit with sanctions, which aim to lock them out of the global financial system, are senior officials in the Revolutionary Guard Aerospace Forces Al-Ghadir Missile Command.

The fifth was linked to a Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for researching and developing ballistic missiles.

Over the last two weeks, the US Treasury has stepped up sanctions targeting Iran, and especially the Revolutionary Guards, in the wake of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tehran that it was facing a tougher sanctions regime than it ever experienced as Washington pressures Tehran to disengage from regional hot spots like Syria and Yemen and to stop exporting its ballistic missile technology.

"This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations," said Pompeo.