Last week, the Pentagon revealed that a Navy patrol ship intercepted a fishing boat smuggling over 2,000 AK-47 rifles from Iran to Yemen. The USS Chinook patrol coastal ship first spotted the vessel sailing in international waters in the Gulf of Oman along a route known to be used to transport illicit cargo to Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.
A boarding team was deployed to the fishing boat and found a crew of six Yemeni nationals along with2,116 AK-47s. The transfer of such weapons to Houthi rebels is a violation of a UN Security Council resolution and international law, US CENTCOM said.
This is the third time in the last two months that the US Navy has intercepted fishing boats smuggling lethal aid from Iran to Yemen through the Gulf of Oman. On November 8, US Naval and Coast Guard ships intercepted over 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, the powerful oxidizer used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as 100 tons of urea fertilizer.
On December 1, forces from the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller seized over 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses, and rocket propellants from one ship. Last week’s shipment is “part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” US 5thFleet and Combined Maritime Forces Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said in a statement. Cooper said the Navy remains “vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security.”
Iran has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing weapons and other resources as the rebels continue their years-long civil war against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The United States previously supported the Saudi-backed offensive efforts against the Houthis but withdrew its official support after Biden took office.