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US gives seized Iran ammo to Ukraine: military

A handout photo released on December 22, 2021 by the US Defense Department shows AK-47 rifles and ammunition seized by the US navy from a fishing boat in the North Arabian Sea
— Washington (AFP)

The United States has given Ukraine small arms ammunition that was seized while being transferred from Iranian forces to Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, the military said Wednesday.

The move could presage the provision of more seized military gear to Ukraine at a time when Washington's ability to continue arming Kyiv has been called into question due to opposition from hardline Republican lawmakers.

"The US government transferred approximately 1.1 million 7.62mm rounds to the Ukrainian armed forces" on Monday, the military's Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The ammunition was seized by US naval forces in December 2022 while it was "being transferred from the IRGC to the Huthis in Yemen," CENTCOM said, referring to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Yemeni rebel forces they support.

"The government obtained ownership of these munitions on July 20, 2023, through the Department of Justice's civil forfeiture claims" against the IRGC, it added.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that the United States can continue meeting Ukraine's military needs for a "little bit longer" with assistance that has already been authorized, but that congressional action is required for aid to continue in the longer term.

Republican opposition to Ukraine assistance led lawmakers to exclude new aid funding from a bill passed over the weekend to avert a US government shutdown, and it is uncertain exactly how long previously authorized support will last.

The approval of additional funding is further complicated by unprecedented chaos in the US House of Representatives, which removed its speaker -- the chamber's most senior official -- this week.

The Pentagon says the government still has authority to withdraw $5.4 billion in equipment for Ukraine from US military stocks, but only $1.6 billion in funding to replace the donated gear.

US officials have spearheaded the push for international support for Ukraine, quickly forging a coalition to back Kyiv after Russia invaded last year and coordinating aid from dozens of countries.

Washington has committed more than $43 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 -- more than half of all international security aid.