Iran port emerges as key to smuggle weapons to Yemen – U.N. report

Thousands of illicit weapons are displayed onboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) in this picture taken on May 8, 2021 and released by U.S. Navy on May 9, 2021. (Reuters) 

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Thousands of weapons seized in the Arabian Sea by the U.S. Navy in recent months likely originated from a single port in Iran, a U.N. report said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The draft report prepared by a U.N. Security Council panel of experts on Yemen said small wooden boats and overland transport were used in attempts to smuggle weapons made in Russia, China and Iran along routes to Yemen, the WSJ reported on Saturday.

The U.N. report stated that the boats left from the Iranian port of Jaska on the Sea of Oman.

Jaska is a small port town in Iran’s southeast that has grown in strategic significance in the past decade.

The report said the ability of Yemen’s Houthis to obtain smuggled weapons had helped give the group the upper hand in a seven-year civil war, according to the journal.

The U.N. panel closely examined two shipments seized by the U.S. Navy in 2021 and one by Saudi Arabia in 2020, all of which the report said likely originated in Jask.

The United States has tried for years to choke off the flow of weapons heading to the Houthis.

Direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthi movement violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. Navy intercepted a small wooden vessel known as dhow in south of Pakistan in the Arabian Sea in May 2021 after leaving Jask, according to report, seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The boat contained 2,556 assault rifles, and 292 general-purpose machine guns and sniper rifles made in China around 2017, the report stated.

It also contained 164 machine guns and 194 rocket launchers consistent with those produced in Iran, it said.

The boat also held telescopic sights made in Belarus, the U.N. panel’s report added.

Belarus told the United Nations that the equipment was delivered to the Iranian armed forces between 2016 and 2018, the Wall Streel Journal reported.

“The mix of the weapons indicates a common pattern of supply, likely from government stocks, involving dhows in the Arabian Sea, which transport weapons to Yemen and Somalia,” the report said, according to the WSJ.

It added that thermal weapon sights seized in June 2021 at a crossing between Oman and Yemen had also been manufactured by an Iranian-Chinese partnership.

The U.S. seized another wooden boat loaded with weapons in February 2021 as it was about to transfer its cargo to another small vessel near Somalia, the report said.

It carried 3,752 assault rifles that likely came from Iran, based on their technical characteristics, along with hundreds of other weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers, according to the report.

In December, the U.S. Navy said it seized 8,700 weapons in 2021, including 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition confiscated from a fishing boat with five Yemeni crewmen that America said came from Iran last month.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) seized dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from a stateless vessel transiting the North Arabian Sea in May.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement since early 2015 after the group ousted the internationally recognized government from Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s Sunni Muslim and Shi’ite powerhouses, are bitter rivals but they launched direct talks this year as global powers try to salvage a nuclear pact with Iran and as U.N.-led efforts to end the Yemen war have stalled.

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