US military says Iran still delivering weapons to Huthi rebels
WASHINGTON - Tehran continues to deliver weapons to Yemen's Huthi rebels, the US military said Wednesday, following a second interception in less than three months of what Washington said were Iranian arms.
"The seizure is consistent with a historical pattern of Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Huthis in Yemen," said Captain Bill Urban of US Central Command, which is responsible for US forces in the Middle East, during a briefing at the Pentagon on the latest interdiction.
Both interceptions were in the Gulf region and involved dhow vessels that were sailing without a flag, the first occurring on November 25 and the second on February 9.
Urban presented photos of the seized cargo and said the weapons came from Iran and were intended for the Huthis.
In the latest seizure, the USS Normandy found 150 "Dhelavieh," Iranian-made copies of the Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile and three Iranian-designed and manufactured "358" surface-to-air missiles, he said.
The weapons seized in November included the same type of missiles plus a large number of spare parts for cruise missiles.
The United States assessed "with high confidence" that the weapons "were being illicitly smuggled to the Huthis in Yemen in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions," Urban said.
He did not say how the two dhows, which are small boats that circulate in large numbers in the region, had been spotted or where they were loaded.
The crew arrested in the latest shipment were Yemeni and were delivered to the Yemen coast guard, he said.
Iran has repeatedly denied providing military assistance to the Huthi rebels, who have seized much of the country's north and took control of Sanaa in 2014.
The Huthis are battling the Yemen government, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict since 2015 and millions suffer food shortages in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.