Iran accused of hitting Gulf with Yemen counterfeits, missiles

November 26, 2017
Serious risks. Bundles of Yemeni currency at a post office before being handed to public sector employees as salaries in Sana’a. (Reuters)

London- Iran is running a large-scale counterfeiting operation in Yemen in order to fund its cov­ert activities, including its bid to destabilise Arab Gulf states, US Treasury officials have said.
The scheme was uncovered a few weeks after Saudi Arabia accused Tehran of providing Yemen’s Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles that can reach Riyadh. Saudi Arabia had said it intercepted a Houthi missile targeting Riyadh in early November.
The US announced that it was imposing sanctions on six Iranian men and companies for counterfeit­ing hundreds of millions of dollars in Yemeni currency. The network, which is allegedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its al-Quds Force, in­cluded two German-based printing and design firms.
“This scheme exposes the deep levels of deception the IRGC-Qods Force is willing to employ against companies in Europe, governments in the Gulf and the rest of the world to support its destabilising activi­ties,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on November 20.
“This counterfeiting scheme ex­poses the serious risks faced by any­one doing business with Iran,” he added. “The IRGC continues to ob­scure its involvement in Iran’s econ­omy and hide behind the façade of legitimate businesses to perpetrate its nefarious objectives.”
Matthew Levitt, a former Treas­ury Department intelligence of­ficial, said Iran has long been in­volved in the counterfeit operations in the Middle East.
“Exposing this is kind of a two-for-one, both exposing the organi­sation’s terrorist activity and also exposing the nature of the criminal activity that it engages in,” he told the Voice of America.
The US sanctions coincided with a warning by the State Department advising Americans against travel to Saudi Arabia due to the risk of ballistic missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“Terrorist threats persist through­out Saudi Arabia, including in ma­jor cities, such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran, and attacks can oc­cur without warning anywhere in the country,” the State Department said.
Saudi Arabia and the US said the long-range missile launched this month, which went further into Saudi territory than previous ones, had been provided to the Yemeni rebels by Iran, a charge that Tehran denies.
“These missile systems were not present in Yemen before the con­flict, and we call upon the United Nations to conduct a thorough ex­amination of evidence that the Ira­nian regime is perpetuating the war in Yemen to advance its regional ambitions,” read a White House statement on November 8.
Saudi officials have also accused Lebanon’s Iran-backed movement Hezbollah of training and arming the Houthis but Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah “categorically” denied “any role” in the launching of missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis said they fired the missile as part of their military re­sponse to the Saudi-led air strikes against them.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of states since March 2015 to support the internationally rec­ognised government of President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Houthi rebels, who took over the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014.
The Saudi-led coalition said it would allow aid access to go through Yemen’s Hodeidah port and United Nations flights to Sana’a airport after closing such access earlier this month, citing a bid to stop Iranian arms from entering Yemen.
“The port of Hodeidah will be reopened to receive food aid and humanitarian relief, and Sana’a air­port will be open for UN flights with humanitarian relief,” a statement from the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
Save the Children welcomed the move but said it would be “no­where near enough to avert a po­tential famine in Yemen.”
“Humanitarian relief only pro­vides a small portion of the essen­tial goods needed in Yemen. Com­mercial supplies are critical to feed the population and keep basic ser­vices running,” it said.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “Yemen is largely dependent on imports (90–95% of its staple food) from international markets to satisfy domestic consumption, in addition to wheat – its main sta­ple.”