UN imposes arms embargo on Yemen’s Houthi movement

Irish Security Council representative abstains, calls for ‘politically negotiated solution’

The UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthi movement following recent drone and missile attacks on the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The Emirati-proposed measure, an expansion of targeted sanctions on Houthi leaders, was adopted by 11 votes, including all five permanent council members, while four non-permanent members – Ireland, Mexico, Norway and Brazil – abstained.

Ireland's deputy permanent representative, Jim Kelly, called for a "politically negotiated solution" and condemned Houthi cross-border attacks but cautioned the council over the use of the word "terrorist" to refer to the Houthis. This, he said, may have "unintended consequences for Yemenis living under Houthi control by hindering the work of humanitarian agencies".

Representatives of the three other abstaining countries also adopted this view, which is held by such agencies.


Russia, reportedly, did not use its permanent member's veto in exchange for Emirati abstention on an earlier council resolution deploring Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia also closely coordinates oil pricing policy with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates’ partner in the seven-year war to restore Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was ousted and exiled in 2015 by the Houthis.

Black market

While Emirati representative Lana Zaki Nusseibeh said the embargo "aims to limit the capacity of the Houthis [to fight] and to stem escalation of the war", the measure is unlikely to curtail arms supplies to the rebels. They acquire weapons from the international black market and, to a limited extent, from Iran.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates enjoy enormous arms supplies from the US and Britain while the US provides maintenance for Saudi war planes, helicopters, weapons and missile components.

The UN embargo was adopted a week after the US treasury department issued fresh sanctions on financiers who have “transferred tens of millions of dollars” to support Houthi attacks on the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

In response to a three-month offensive by Saudi- and Emirati-backed Yemeni militias, the Houthis launched several drone and missile attacks on Saudi targets and conducted three strikes on the Emirates.

The Houthis had suspended attacks on the Emirates in 2019 when most of its ground forces withdrew from Yemen.

The embargo could prolong the war if the Emiratis and Saudis are encouraged to continue the conflict in the expectation the Houthis would be starved of arms and munitions.

The Houthis condition a ceasefire and negotiations on lifting the blockade of the rebel-held airport and seaports, which the Saudis refuse to agree to.

Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with half its population of 30 million people unable to access food. The UN reports that 377,000 people have been killed and four million displaced. Funding for aid for last year was only 58.2 per cent of requirements, forcing major cuts in rations and health services.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times