The US military, specifically the US Central Command (Centcom), has reported that it sent approximately 1.1 million rounds of ammunition seized from Iran last year to Ukraine. Centcom oversees operations in the Middle East and has revealed that they initially confiscated these rounds from a ship en route to Yemen back in December. The situation in Ukraine has raised concerns among its Western allies, as they struggle to keep up with the demand on their ammunition production lines.
Centcom disclosed that they transferred the Iranian ammunition to Ukraine on Monday. US naval forces originally took these munitions from a stateless vessel named MARWAN 1 on December 9. In July, the US government gained ownership of these rounds through a legal process known as civil forfeiture. This process allows assets to be seized if there are suspicions of involvement in criminal activities. In this case, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian armed forces responsible for safeguarding the country’s government, faced the claim.
Allies and Partners
Centcom emphasized the US commitment to collaborating with its allies and partners in countering the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region using legal means. Iran has faced accusations of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil war. However, the UN Security Council prohibited such arms transfers to the group through a resolution in 2015. The civil war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the country’s government. A Saudi-led coalition of regional countries, along with the support of the US and the UK, backs the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Furthermore, Iran has faced repeated allegations of supplying arms, particularly drones, to Russia for use in the conflict in Ukraine since the second half of last year. At the Warsaw Security Forum, Adm Rob Bauer, chair of Nato’s Military Committee, pointed out that the “bottom of the barrel is now visible” regarding the West’s ammunition supply to Ukraine. He highlighted that decades of underinvestment had left Nato countries with ammunition stocks that were only half-full or even emptier at the start of the war. He stressed the need for governments and arms manufacturers to significantly increase production rates.
Moreover, UK Defence Minister James Heappey urged Nato allies to meet the bloc’s agreed-upon target of spending 2% of their national income on defense. However, this target is expected to be achieved this year by only 11 of Nato’s 31 members.
The transfer of Iranian ammunition to Ukraine occurs as the Biden administration seeks alternative methods to provide assistance to Ukraine due to opposition from some members of Congress.