While European nations and others rush to renew their economic ties with Tehran, Iran’s military has also been busy making sure its arms export mechanism continues to roll out product to the masses.
An Iranian arms delivery to Shi’ite Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen was intercepted last week in the northern Arabian Sea.
It’s not clear whether the interception was carried out by a Saudi-led coalition of by a member of the 30-nation Combined Maritime Forces, (CMF) a U.S.-led multinational coalition.
It is believed the vessel, which was not formally registered to any country, was attempting to smuggle the weapons in to Shi’ite rebels in Yemen.
Crew members on the intercepted vessel said the ship was headed for Somalia, located near Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden.
The ship was a dhow, a large wooden vessel commonly used in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, according to a report by the Associated Press.
It was registered to Hogan Mohammed Hout, an Iranian national, and licensed as a fishing vessel, AP reported, quoting a Saudi coalition engaged in fighting Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The vessel was intercepted while carrying the weapons in international waters, the U.S. Navy said in a statement, contradicting a claim by the Saudi coalition which placed the interception a day later, and by Saudis. An American guided missile destroyer, the Forrest Sherman, reportedly went to provide backup once the arms were discovered.
The U.S. Navy also stated that based on statements by the crew, the port of origin and the arms were believed to be Iranian.
According to the Saudis, the ship was carrying papers indicating it was checked by port and customs officials in the southeastern Iranian ports in Sistan and Baluchistan.
Some of the anti-tank ordnance allegedly originated in Russia as well.
Most of the weapons were dumped into the sea, with the exception of a few retained for analysis, and the vessel was allowed to continue on its way.
The account differs from statements made earlier in the day by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis. That coalition alleged it had foiled the same smuggling attempt – albeit on Saturday – saying Iran was using the ship to arm the Houthis.
Hana Levi Julian