U.S. Lifts Sanctions on 3 Iranian Officials, Issues More on Yemeni Financial Ring

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it was lifting sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies it said had been involved in banned petroleum sales, saying the U.S. had "verified a change in status or behavior" on their part.

It also placed new sanctions on a Yemeni network that the U.S. said was cooperating with Iran's Revolutionary Guards to illicitly transfer tens of millions of dollars to Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels, the Associated Press reported.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the changes in a statement as the Biden administration is trying both to encourage the Iranian-linked Yemen rebels into peace talks for the war in Yemen, and to close a deal returning the U.S. and Iran to an agreement on Iran's nuclear program.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

This picture taken on June 10, 2021 shows a smoke plume billowing following a reported airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's Huthi rebel-held capital Sanaa. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

The money moving through the alleged Houthi financing network came from sales of Iranian petroleum and other commodities throughout the Middle East, Blinken said.

International officials and analysts say Iran has increased its material support to Yemen's Houthi rebels as the war in the Arab nation passes the six-year mark. A Saudi-led coalition is trying to hold off the Houthis, who seized the country's capital and are waging an offensive now to capture a major northern city, in defiance of U.S. and U.N. calls for a ceasefire.

The new U.S. action designates 11 Yemeni individuals, alleged front companies and intermediaries and vessels involved in what it said were the illicit transfers.

The 11 included Jami' 'Ali Muhammad, a Houthi and alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard associate who the United States says helped "procure vessels, facilitate shipments of fuel, and transfer funds for the benefit of the Houthis," the U.S. said.

The 2015 nuclear deal is based on Iran limiting the development of its nuclear program in return for the U.S. and others lifting sanctions against Iran. Ongoing talks in Vienna have focused partly on the timing of the U.S. lifting sanctions and Iranians returning to compliance.

The Biden administration release said lifting of sanctions against the three former Iran officials and two companies demonstrates "our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons. "

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers allowed it to sell crude oil again on the international market. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, leading Iran to clandestinely taking its oil abroad and selling it.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Washington. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo