Dhow raids reveal Iran’s supply line of sophisticated missiles to Yemen’s Houthis

USS Forrest Sherman seized "351" land attack cruise missiles that matched those used against the Aramco sites. (US Central Command)
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Updated 21 February 2020

Dhow raids reveal Iran’s supply line of sophisticated missiles to Yemen’s Houthis

  • A "351" land-attack cruise missile matches weapon used to attack Aramco sites
  • US military raided two dhows in three months and found similar Iran-made weapons heading for Houthis

LONDON: Iranian cruise missile parts seized from a boat in the Arabian Sea matched those used in the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities, US military officials said.

The equipment was part of a shipment of sophisticated weaponry seized from a dhow in November destined for Houthi militants in Yemen. Another dhow carrying similar weapons was raided by the US Navy this month.

During a briefing Wednesday, Capt. Bill Urban of US Central Command, which is responsible for US forces in the Middle East, detailed the various missiles and other materiel discovered on the two boats.




One of the five, near-fully assembled Iranian-made "358" surface-to-air missiles.  (US Central Command)

The findings are the latest in an extensive body of evidence showing Iran supplying the Houthis with increasingly sophisticated weapons in breach of a UN arms embargo. They also show the extent to which Iranian weapons are being used to attack Saudi Arabia and other countries across the region.

Among the weapons found on board the dhow in November were anti-tank missiles, advanced “358” surface-to-air missiles and components used for land and sea cruise missiles, and drones, Urban said.

“This includes components of a ‘351’ land-attack cruise missile that matches the missiles used by Iran to attack the Aramco refineries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last September,” he added.

The US believes the attacks on the Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oil field were launched from Iran rather than Yemen, contrary to a claim from the Houthis that they had mounted the attack. 

The UN and Saudi Arabia have also dismissed that the drone and cruise missile raid came from Yemen in the south and instead hit the targets in the Kingdom from the north.

The attacks, which Iran denied carrying out, temporarily cut off more than five percent of global oil supplies.




Weapons seized by the USS Normandy in February included anti-­tank weapons, surface-to-air missiles, and various electronic components for unmanned systems. (US Central Command)

The surface-to-air missiles seized in the November raid carried out by the USS Forrest Sherman also included links to the Aramco attacks. The weapons contained high-tech components that matched those in the drones used to attack the facilities.

The independent Conflict Armament Research made similar findings in a report published Wednesday that linked the drones used in the Aramco attack to Houthi drones in Yemen and Iranian drones recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Urban said the second dhow intercepted on Feb. 9 by the USS Normandy found 150 “Dhelavieh,” anti-tank guided missiles that are Iranian copies of the Russian Kornet. They also found three more of the “358” surface-to-air missiles, he said.

A US military official told the New York Times that the new weapon is designed to avoid US defensive systems and can shoot down military helicopters.

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Iran has been smuggling weapons to the Houthis for at least five years since the Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, launched an operation to support Yemen’s internationally recognized government after the militia seized the capital Sanaa.

The increasing sophistication of the weapons will add to concerns that Iran is stoking the conflict as the UN attempts to broker a political solution.

“There is no doubt as to where these weapons came from or where they were going,” Urban said. “For the international community, the supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis has often led to spillage of the Yemeni conflict beyond its borders.

“For the people of Yemen, the continual supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis has certainly prolonged the conflict, delayed a political solution and increased the suffering of the Yemeni people.”


Violence mounts against Iraqi doctors as COVID-19 cases spike

Updated 23 September 2020

Violence mounts against Iraqi doctors as COVID-19 cases spike

  • “All the doctors are scared,” said Sheibani, speaking at his home in Kufa a few weeks after the Aug. 28 attack
  • More than 8,000 people have died, a number that some doctors fear will rise sharply

NAJAF: Iraqi doctor Tariq Al-Sheibani remembers little else beyond cowering on the ground as a dozen relatives of a patient, who had just died of COVID-19, beat him unconscious.
About two hours later the 47-year-old director of Al-Amal Hospital in the southern city of Najaf woke up in a different clinic with bruises all over his body.
“All the doctors are scared,” said Sheibani, speaking at his home in Kufa a few weeks after the Aug. 28 attack. “Every time a patient dies, we all hold our breath.”
He is one of many doctors struggling to do their job as COVID-19 cases rise sharply in Iraq.
They are working within a health service that has been left to decay through years of civil conflict and underfunding, and now face the added threat of physical attack by grieving and desperate families.
Reuters spoke to seven doctors, including the head of Iraq’s Medical Association, who described a growing pattern of assaults on medical staff. Dozens have taken place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that the pandemic could spiral out of control in Iraq.

Tarik Sheibani, 47, an Iraqi doctor and director of Al-Amal Hospital, wears a protective suit at a hospital where he treats coronavirus disease patients, in Najaf, Iraq September 13, 2020. (Reuters)


Authorities have lifted many lockdown measures, allowing restaurants and places of worship to reopen, but they have shut borders to pilgrims ahead of a large Shiite Muslim pilgrimage that normally draws millions to the south of the country.
Iraq has recorded several thousand new coronavirus infections every day, and the total now exceeds 300,000.
More than 8,000 people have died, a number that some doctors fear will rise sharply, putting frontline health care workers under huge pressure and in some cases in physical danger.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the COVID situation in Iraq and medics’ complaints about the threat of violence.
Sheibani, whose beating went viral when CCTV footage circulated online, said the family of the deceased patient blamed his staff for the death. He said he did not know how the video reached the public domain.
The patient had arrived at hospital in critical condition.
“I hate myself and I hate the day I became a doctor in Iraq,” Sheibani told Reuters. “They brought the patient in his final stages and he died, and they want the health system to bear the responsibility.”
Enforcing health safety guidelines within the hospital is not always easy, especially when tensions between families of sick patients and hospital staff are running high.
During a recent visit to Sheibani’s hospital, which is a coronavirus isolation center, Reuters reporters saw relatives of COVID-19 patients coming in and out of the ward without wearing full protective gear as they are supposed to.
Some were only wearing surgical face masks.
Iraq is fighting the pandemic with a depleted force of doctors and nurses.
In 2018, it had just 2.1 nurses and midwives per thousand people, compared with Jordan’s 3.2 and Lebanon’s 3.7, according to official estimates. It had 0.83 doctors per thousand people, while neighboring Jordan, for example, had 2.3.
There are also significant shortages of drugs, oxygen, and vital medical equipment, the result of years of underspending.
Many young doctors say they are overworked, putting in 12-16 hour shifts every day meaning they are more likely to make mistakes in prescriptions and treatment. Some take kickbacks for handing over certain drugs, physicians told Reuters.
The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Government vows action
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has condemned the attacks against medical staff and promised to hold perpetrators to account.
The attacks have increased in recent months, said Medical Association president Abdul Ameer Hussein. He said his association could not keep track of all of them, but they include verbal and physical abuse and even stabbings.
Sheibani filed a complaint with police, but he said he had received threats from the people who beat him up to drop the case.

Tarik Sheibani, 47, an Iraqi doctor and director of Al-Amal Hospital, wears a protective suit as he walks at a quarantine ward at Al-Amal Hospital in Najaf, Iraq September 13, 2020. (Reuters)


“They might attack me or my family,” Sheibani said, adding that he no longer left his house alone.
Doctors say the government has not taken tough enough action to protect them from violence, which they have faced for years even before the pandemic.
The health ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it would assign its legal division to file lawsuits against those who attacked health workers, as well as those medics who fell short in treating patients.
According to the Medical Association, at least 320 doctors have been killed since 2003, when US-led forces toppled President Saddam Hussein, ushering in years of sectarian violence and extremist insurgencies.
Thousands more have been kidnapped or threatened.
Doctors and human rights activists say the state is so weak that it cannot bring doctor’s assailants to justice, especially if they come from a powerful tribe or belong to a militia.
“The government can’t protect doctors from tribes. Doctors end up dropping the cases because they receive threats,” said Hussein, adding that he often asks tribal leaders to mediate when a doctor is being threatened.
Doctors have gone on strike and protested in recent months over what they say is government inaction over the attacks.
Abbas Alaulddin, 27, a doctor in Baghdad who was assaulted last week by the family of a patient who died of COVID-19, said he was considering seeking asylum.
“The situation here is unbearable.”