The U.S. Navy interdicted an enormous Iranian vessel in the Arabian Sea and seized more than 2,000 illicit weapons onboard, which were believed to be en route to the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, various news agencies report.
The revelation comes less than a week after the parties to Yemen’s violent civil war — including the Houthis, who have received assistance from Shiite powerhouse and Saudi Arabia’s regional enemy Iran throughout the year-old conflict – have agreed to a cessation of hostilities to begin April 10.
Citing a statement from the U.S. Navy, Reuters reports:
The weapons seized last week by the warships [coastal patrol ship USS] Sirocco and [guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely] were hidden on a small dhow and included 1,500 AK-47 rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, and 21 .50-caliber machine guns.
According to the news outlet, “The weapons were seized on March 28 and are now in U.S. custody. The boat, which the Navy described as stateless, and its crew were allowed to leave once the weapons were taken.”
Last week’s seizure marks the latest in a string carried about by international naval forces in the Arabian Sea alone in just the last month, notes the American Navy statement.
“In all three instances, the weapons were assessed by U.S. officials to have originated in Iran,” notes Stars and Stripes.
Iran backs the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are fighting the internationally recognized government, which is backed by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival in the region. A ceasefire is set to take effect on Sunday, followed by peace talks in Kuwait.
Last year, the United Nations Security Council imposed an arms embargo against the Houthis. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have repeatedly accused Iran of flouting the ban, something Tehran has always denied.
Previously agreed upon truces between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have failed.
The coalition has vowed that the major components of its campaign against the Houthis and their allies will soon end.
“More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which also involves al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” points out Stars and Stripes. “The Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] also has sought to exploit the chaos in Yemen to establish a foothold.”
“Houthi forces seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014, stoking concern in Saudi Arabia that Iran was exploiting turmoil in the region and extending its influence to the Saudi border. The Houthis, whose home territory is in northern Yemen, practice Shi’ite Islam, the majority faith in Iran,” adds Reuters.