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U.S. Navy Seizes Iranian Arms Shipment to Yemen for Third Time in Recent Weeks

The United States Navy intercepted a massive Iranian arms shipment in the Arabian Sea on March 28 that was likely headed to Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Pentagon announced on Monday. This is the third time a suspected Yemen-bound weapons shipment from Iran has been seized in recent weeks.

The arms, which according to the Navy included “1,500 AK-47s, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns,” were aboard a commonly used sailing vessel called a dhow. The weapons will remain in American custody until final disposition. The crew was released after the seizure and their nationality was not disclosed.

Shia Houthis in Yemen, who are supported by Tehran, are currently fighting against Saudi and U.S.-backed government forces in the country.

A French ship attached to a multinational anti-smuggling force intercepted a similar weapons cache on March 20 in the Indian Ocean. An Australian ship intercepted an arms shipment 20 miles off the coast of Oman on February 20. That shipment was believed to be headed to Yemen by way of Somalia.

Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, chief of Iran’s army, said over the weekend that the Iranian Navy will upgrade its ships and deploy a contingent to Latin America, which will allow it to “take bigger steps” during voyages.

Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S., charged in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Iran was undermining chances of peace in Yemen by continuing to arm the Houthis.

Iran acknowledged its support of the Houthis after the rebels blocked the formation of a national government in October 2014. Shortly afterwards, an Iranian official said that with the capture of much of Sana’a, the Islamic Republic had control of its fourth Arab capital.

[Photo: Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr ]