AL-MUKALLA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded action against the Tehran regime after the US Navy seized an Iranian weapons shipment bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen.
A US Navy warship seized weapons believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture,” including 150 anti-tank guided missiles and three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, the American military has said.
The military said the guided-missile cruiser Normandy boarded a dhow, a traditional sailing vessel, in the Arabian Sea on Sunday.
“The weapons seized include 150 ‘Dehlavieh’ anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), which are Iranian-manufactured copies of Russian Kornet ATGMs,” the statement said.
“Other weapons components seized aboard the dhow were of Iranian design and manufacture and included three Iranian surface-to-air missiles,” it said.
The military said that the weapons seized on Sunday were “identical” to those seized by another US warship in November.
Pompeo wrote on Twitter: “The US Navy interdicted 358 Iranian-made missiles + other weapons components on their way to the Houthis in Yemen. This is another example of the world’s largest state sponsor of terror the Islamic Republic of Iran continuing to defy the UN Security Council,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
“The world must reject Iran’s violence and act now to renew the expiring UN arms embargo on Iran,” Pompeo said.
The weapons are currently in US custody, and partner nations have been invited to inspect the cache.
“Those weapons were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen, which would be in violation of a UN Security Council Resolution that prohibits the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis,” CENTCOM said.
Yemen’s government has demanded the international community impose tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime over the arms shipment.
Yemen’s Minister of Information, Mummar Al-Aryani, said that Iranian arms shipments to Houthi fighters have greatly contributed to the destabilization of the country and the deaths of hundreds of Yemenis.
“We welcome the announcement by the US Central Command that the US navy seized an Iranian arms ship on its way to Houthi militia,” Al-Aryani said via Twitter on Thursday.
The minister called on the international community to impose more sanctions on Iran and pressure the country to stop shipping arms to the rebels.
Houthi militia have used Iranian arms to expand military operations and kill civilians, he added.
“We urge the international community and the UN Security Council to impose deterrent sanctions on the Tehran regime and exert pressure to (halt) arms and exports smuggling to Houthis,” he said.
Yemen’s latest accusations come shortly after the US announced that it had seized a suspected Iranian weapons shipment in the Arabian Sea en route to Houthi fighters in Yemen.
Even before the current conflict started in late 2014, consecutive Yemeni governments accused Iran of giving military, financial and technical support to the rebels, helping them to seize control of the entire country in early 2015.
Iran stepped up its arms shipments to the Houthis after 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in Yemen to restore the power of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Arms shipments have been intercepted at sea or while crossing government-controlled areas on land.
Backed by massive military aid from the Saudi-led coalition, Yemeni government forces have seized control of key seaports on the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea that are thought to be entry points for arms smuggling.
The coalition has strengthened Yemeni coast guard forces and equipped them with fast boats to combat smuggling of arms and drugs.
Last week the coast guard authority in Yemen’s eastern Mahra governorate took delivery of several armed boats from the Saudi-led coalition. Mahra Gov. Rajeh Bakreet said the boats will help the coast guard in the fight against smuggling.
Separately, the Houthis have dropped a threat to impose a tax on aid, in a significant step toward resolving a crisis that has jeopardized the world’s biggest humanitarian operation.
UN leaders and aid groups held crunch talks in Brussels on Thursday to consider scaling back or suspending the delivery of vital supplies to millions of people at risk of starvation.
Houthi leaders killed
Iran-backed Houthi rebels have arranged several funeral processions for military officers killed in fighting with government forces or in strikes by Saudi-led coalition warplanes.
Last week, the Houthi version of the official Saba news agency said the rebel group was mourning the deaths of Col. Abdul Latef Saleh, Col. Maeen Abdullah, Col. Abdul Badae Al-Houthi and several other commanders killed in fighting.
More than 100 Houthis fighters, including senior field commanders, are believed have died since early last month when fighting intensified following a Houthi drone and missile attack that killed more than 110 soldiers and civilians in Marib.