Skip to main content

US Navy says weapons seized en route from Iran to Yemen

Thousands of AK-47's were intercepted from a fishing boat in Gulf of Oman
Yemeni pro-government fighters man a position on the outskirts of al-Jawba in the northeastern province of Marib, on 27 January 2022 (AFP)

The US Navy said Tuesday it had seized more than 2,000 assault rifles smuggled on a fishing boat along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen.

The cargo was discovered on Friday off the coast of Oman "on a route historically used to traffic illicit cargo to the Houthis in Yemen", the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said in a statement, noting the vessel "was crewed by six Yemeni nationals".

"This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilising activity from Iran," Vice Admiral Brad Cooper was quoted as saying.

US senator pulls vote for Yemen war powers bill after White House opposition
Read More »

The fishing vessel intercepted last week had been carrying 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles.

"The transfer of the vessel and its crew for repatriation is in progress," the Fifth Fleet said, adding that "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates" international law.

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis in February 2022.

Last month, the US Navy said it had seized one million rounds of ammunition along with rocket fuses and propellant being smuggled on a fishing trawler from Iran to Yemen. In November, the US Navy said it had scuttled a boat transporting "explosive materials" from Iran to supply the Houthis with enough power to fuel a dozen ballistic rockets.

The series of interceptions comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Iran, which has been rocked by protests calling for regime change. At the same time, as hopes for a return to the nuclear deal fade, Tehran's ties to the West have sunk to new lows over its arms shipments to Russia. 

Yemen was an early flashpoint in the Biden administration's rocky relations with long-time Gulf allies, who chafed at what they saw as Washington's tepid support for their security concerns over the Houthis. 

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year. 

Since then, a grinding war has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

A UN-brokered ceasefire that took effect in April brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October, though fighting largely remains on hold. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.