Iran blacklists US envoy to Yemen in tit-for-tat move

Iran and the US have blacklisted each other’s envoys to war-torn Yemen, where the two countries support opposing factions.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Christopher Henzel was blacklisted for his 'pivotal role in the occurrence of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen' [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
Iran’s foreign ministry said Christopher Henzel was blacklisted for his 'pivotal role in the occurrence of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen' [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – Iran imposed sanctions on the United States ambassador to Yemen a day after the administration of US President Donald Trump blacklisted Tehran’s envoy to the embattled country.

In a statement late on Wednesday, Iran’s foreign ministry said Christopher Henzel was blacklisted for his “pivotal role in the occurrence of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen”.

The ongoing crisis is “the biggest tragedy of the century” perpetrated by a US-led coalition that wishes to break up Yemen, it said.

Henzel was designated under a law approved by the Iranian parliament in late July 2017 that is aimed at combating the “violations of human rights and the adventurism and terroristic acts of the US in the region”.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry, Henzel had an “effective participation” in financing and arming the Saudi-Emirati-led coalition, and violated human rights of the people of Yemen through imposition and enforcing of sanctions.

The sanctions come one day after the outgoing Trump administration kept up its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran by sanctioning Hasan Irlu, Iran’s ambassador to Yemen.

The US described Irlu as an official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and “the Iranian regime’s envoy to Houthi rebels” in Yemen.

“In so doing, Iran is the only nation to officially recognise and appoint formal so-called representation to the Houthis,” the US State Department said.

Iran supports the Houthi fighters, who have been trying to oust Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, who came to power in 2011 following the Arab Spring uprisings.

A US-supported coalition, joined by Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, backs Hadi’s government.

The war between the two factions has dragged on for years, leading to a “humanitarian catastrophe” that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says has led to more than 27,000 Yemenis fleeing the country and 3.6 million people being displaced.

After being sanctioned, the Iranian ambassador thanked Trump and said he is ready to sacrifice himself if required.

“I thank the gambler Trump, who insists on showing the real face of the US government and the regime’s lack of commitment to international laws by sanctioning an ambassador,” Irlu wrote in tweets in Farsi and Arabic.

“But in the path to freedom for nations of the region from the crimes of the US and Zionism we neither fear sanctions nor martyrdom, but are proud of it.”

A similar tit-for-tat move transpired between Iran and the US in late October, when Iran imposed sanctions on the US ambassador to Iraq after Washington blacklisted Tehran’s envoy to Baghdad.

Tensions between the two countries have been steadily on the rise since Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

The economic sanctions have blacklisted Iran’s entire financial sector while terrorist and human rights designations have also retargeted Iranian entities and individuals that were already targeted by US sanctions in an effort to make it more difficult for a Joe Biden administration to lift them.

Source: Al Jazeera

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