US, UK impose new Houthi sanctions as Red Sea attacks continue


The United States and United Kingdom on Thursday announced sanctions leveled at four senior Houthi officials in Yemen as the Iran-backed militant group escalates its attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

The sanctions target Houthi Defense Minister Mohamed Nasser al-Atifi, Commander of Houthi Naval Forces Muhammad Fadl Abd al-Nabi, Coastal Defense Forces chief Muhammad Ali al-Qadiri and Muhammed Ahmad al-Talibi, who is described as the Houthi forces director of procurement.

“The Houthis’ persistent terrorist attacks on merchant vessels and their civilian crews lawfully transiting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden threaten to disrupt international supply chains and the freedom of navigation, which is critical to global security, stability, and prosperity,” said Brian E. Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in a statement.


The Biden administration earlier in January relisted the Houthis as a terrorist organization, three years after removing them from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. The new designation came in response to attacks by the group on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Suez Canal, a critical juncture point for global trade.

The attacks – which have continued even after the U.S. and U.K. conducted joint missile strikes on the group – have caused a spike in shipping costs and snarled global trade routes, stoking fears about a resurgence in inflation just as price pressures within the economy finally begin to abate. 

Oil prices have climbed since the start of the new year as the U.S. ramps up its response to the attacks.


About 15% of world shipping traffic, including 30% of global container trade, passes through the Suez Canal. But to avoid being attacked or having their cargo stolen, many ships are instead sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, which is the long way around the continent of Africa.

A cargo ship crosses the Suez Cana

UBS has estimated that routing ships around Africa – which increases the journey length by about two and a half weeks – reduces an Asia-Europe trip’s effective capacity by about 25%.

Bank of America analysts warned in a note this month that the disruptions in the Red Sea and Suez Canal as well as the Panama Canal risk delaying recent declines in inflation.

“The scope for further declines may be blunted in part by rising shipping costs due to issues in the Red Sea and low water levels in the Panama Canal,” they wrote.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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