For the third time in recent weeks, the U.S. Navy has seized a massive shipment of Iranian arms, en route to Yemen.
The bust came on March 28th on the Arabian Sea, the weapons were on their way to the hands of the Houthi rebels in Yemen who are fighting in a proxy war against Saudi and U.S. backed forces.
According to reports, the shipment contained 1,500 AK-47s, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns. While the weapons which were being transported on a traditional dhow ship, were all confiscated by the Navy, the crew was released after the bust.
This may come as a surprise to many, however current rules do not allow for detaining the crew because, according to an official, “You have to find a country willing to prosecute.”
These busts come shortly after Iran tested missiles with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out,” written on them, in defiance of the nuclear deal they signed with the U.S. which bans ballistic testing.
The Iranians don’t buy that.
Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Maassoud Jazzayeri told Iranian state media:
“The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, specially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation’s red lines… and we don’t allow anyone to violate it.”
So who are the Houthi? Here is a brief background from the Washington Post:
The Houthis are a Shiite insurgency group that originated from northwestern Yemen’s Saada province. Charles Schmitz, a professor at Towson University,writes that their origins lie in the Shabab al-Mumanin (the Believing Youth), a group that operated in the early 1990s. The Believing Youth worked to raise awareness about the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, which had dominated Yemen for centuries but was sidelined after a civil war in the 1960s and repressed by the Yemeni government.
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hussein al-Houthi, one of the leaders of the Believing Youth, began staging anti-American protests and became a vocal critic of then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. After Houthi’s followers clashed with the government, Yemeni forces killed him. Following his death, the group was renamed after him. The insurgency continued, led by those related to Hussein al-Houthi – 33-year-old Abdulmalik al-Houthi is the current leader.
Will Yemen be the next Syria? Sound off in the comments below!