U.S. Sends Ukraine Weapons Seized En Route from Iran to Yemen

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America transferred to Ukraine thousands of Iranian weapons that were seized enroute to Yemen by U.S. naval forces and partner nations, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported on April 9. The April 4 weapons transfer included “over 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition” — enough to equip one Ukrainian brigade with small arms rifles that “will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion,” CENTCOM said.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shipped the weaponry, intended for Yemen’s Tehran-backed Houthi rebels, in “four separate transiting stateless vessels” between May 2021 and February 2023, CENTCOM noted. The United States legally acquired the weapons on December 1, 2023, through a Department of Justice civil forfeiture action.

The transfer comes amid repeated warnings from Ukraine that its armed forces are facing critical shortfalls in ammunition and personnel. Iran has been a key supplier of weapons to its Russian ally, providing Shahed drones that have been used to devastating effect against Ukrainian cities.

Expert Analysis

“Iran is providing Russia weapons to support Putin’s unprovoked invasion and kill Ukrainians. It seems appropriate to send seized Iranian weapons to help Ukrainians defend their homes. As the U.S. House of Representatives continues to sit on its hands and deprive Ukraine of the weapons it needs, every weapon and munition that can be sent to Kyiv helps.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Iran has paid little to no cost for its rampant arms proliferation. To date, Iranian drones can be spotted in conflict zones across four continents. One way to change this is to flip the script on Tehran through interdictions and asset forfeiture actions that allow for the legal seizure of weapons bound for Iranian proxies and instead provide them to U.S. partners under fire. Not only can this support Ukraine in the short run against Iran’s great power patron, but in the long run, it can force Tehran to think twice before stepping up its weapons exports.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Transferring seized Iranian arms to Ukraine makes all the sense in the world. Rather than supporting terrorism, this weaponry will aid the cause of freedom. And every dollar saved on providing Kyiv with small arms and light weapons is a dollar that can be put to more efficient use in support of Ukraine.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

Iran-Backed Houthi Strikes Continue in Red Sea

Trained and equipped by Iran, the Houthis are a major node in the Islamist regime’s network of terrorist proxies targeting Israel, its partners, and commercial shipping. Since November, the Houthis’ constant attacks on commercial shipping in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden have effectively cut off key international supply chains. U.S. and European efforts to defend commercial vessels have not deterred Houthi attacks.

CENTCOM reported on April 8 that U.S. forces destroyed a Houthi-controlled air defense system with two missiles ready to launch, a ground control station in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, and one unmanned aerial system launched by the Houthis over the Red Sea. Earlier that day, an anti-ship ballistic missile was launched at an allied coalition ship escorting the Marshall Islands-flagged M/V Hope Island cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden but caused no damage, according to CENTCOM.

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