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US says Iran continues to smuggle ‘advanced weapons’ to Huthis in Yemen

The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), in accordance with international law, seized an illicit shipment of advanced weapons and weapon components intended for the Houthis in Yemen, aboard a stateless dhow during a maritime interdiction operation in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations, Feb. 9, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. military says Iran is continuing to send “advanced weapons” to Yemen’s Huthi rebels as part of their fight against the Saudi-backed government in the war-torn nation.

The comments on February 19 came more than a week after the U.S. Navy seized advanced weapons and weapon components believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture” intended for the rebels in Yemen.

It was the second such seizure of dhow vessels that were sailing without a flag following a previous such incident on November 25.

Iran denies supplying the mainly Shi’ite Huthi rebels with arms, despite evidence displayed by U.S. and Saudi officials that it does.

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“The [latest] seizure is consistent with a historical pattern of Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Huthis in Yemen,” Captain Bill Urban of U.S. Central Command — which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East — told a briefing at the Pentagon.

Urban said Washington believes that Iran has been providing weapons to the Huthi rebels for the last five years, which he said has helped prolong the deadly conflict.

He displayed photos of the seized weapons and said they came from Iran and were intended for the Huthis.

He said the USS Normandy on February 9 found 150 “Dhelavieh,” Iranian-made copies of the Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile, and three Iranian-designed and manufactured surface-to-air missiles.

The November seizures included the same type of missiles, along with a large number of spare parts for cruise missiles, he added.

Urban said U.S. experts had “high confidence” the weapons “were being illicitly smuggled to the Huthis in Yemen in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.”

Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, has been involved in a protracted war with Huthi forces since 2014.

The rebels have seized much of the nation’s northwest and its capital, Sanaa, in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people and created a humanitarian nightmare in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Many people have called the fight a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite-led Iran.