Arab coalition intercepts Iranian arms shipments bound for Houthis

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Saudi Col. Turki al-Malki (Center-L) shows US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (C) reportedly Iranian weapons seized by Saudi forces from Iran-backed Houthis, during a visit to a military base in al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia, on September 5th, 2019. [Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

The Arab coalition announced Tuesday (June 30th) it had thwarted two attempts to smuggle Iranian weapons to Yemen's Houthis (Ansarallah) in recent weeks.

Coalition naval forces intercepted a shipment of Iranian weapons off Yemen's coast on June 24th, the coalition said in a statement.

In a previous operation, coalition naval forces on April 17th intercepted another shipment of Iranian weapons aboard a dhow off the coast of eastern Yemen's al-Mahra province.

Yemen's Foreign Ministry said the weapon shipments were bound for the Houthis, "in a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions".

It condemned the continued smuggling of weapons to the Houthis, urging the international community and Security Council to "put an end to the Iranian regime's persistent violations in Yemen".

In a video, the ministry displayed the contents of the June 24th arms shipment, which included hundreds of rockets, light weapons, sniper rifles, night-vision goggles and drone-guidance systems.

Saudi state minister of foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir and US special representative for Iran Brian Hook on Monday called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

During a press conference held in Riyadh, the two officials warned of major consequences to regional security if the ban is lifted.

Increased monitoring efforts

The coalition's interception of the Iranian arms shipments is part of measures to protect Yemen's territorial waters and Saudi Arabia following an uptick in Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom, said Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez.

"The coalition has ramped up security monitoring operations along [maritime] navigation routes in the Red Sea and the Arab Sea, as the Houthis continue to deploy naval mines and booby-trapped boats," he told Al-Mashareq.

The two operations represent "fresh evidence that Iran is determined to support the militias in defiance of the UN arms embargo", he said.

To help put an end to Iran's violations, Yemen's naval forces must be supported and armed so they can take part in the effort to protect the country's coast, said Abdul Hafeez.

"This will tighten the noose on the militias and restrict weapon supplies to them," he added.

The continued smuggling of weapons to the Houthis indicates that Iran seeks to prevent a peaceful resolution to the war in Yemen "and will continue to threaten regional security and defy international resolutions", said Abaad Studies and Research Centre director Abdulsalam Mohammed.

The arms embargo alone is not enough, he told Al-Mashareq, adding that more sanctions need to be imposed on Iran, the Houthis and all those who support them in smuggling weapons.

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