Intel: Saudi-led coalition says it intercepted Iranian weapons bound for Yemen

al-monitor Saudi Col. Turki bin Saleh al-Malki (Center-L) shows US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (C) supposed Iranian weapons seized by Saudi forces from Yemen's Houthi rebels, during a visit to a military base in Al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia, Sept. 5, 2019. Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images.

Jun 29, 2020

The Saudi-led coalition intercepted a boat carrying light weapons of Iranian origin bound for war-wracked Yemen, Saudi and US officials said today amid a US push in the United Nations Security Council toward renewing an international arms embargo on Tehran.

What appeared to be recoilless, anti-material, and Kalashnikov-style rifles, as well as thermal scopes and documents written in Farsi, were reportedly among the cargo of a dhow seized by Arab coalition forces off western Yemen’s port city of Mocha in April, according to images and statements released by coalition officials.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir unveiled the results of the seizure at a press conference today in Riyadh alongside US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook.

Al-Arabiya, which broadcast the press conference, cited a Saudi-led coalition official as saying the weapons were captured on April 17.

Why it Matters:  The United States and Saudi Arabia are ramping up the pressure on Iran ahead of a UN Security Council decision on whether to renew an arms embargo on Tehran, which is set to expire in October.

If what Hook and Jubeir announced is accurate, the seizure would be the latest reported example of Iran violating an arms embargo on Yemen, which has been torn apart by civil war since 2015. The United States has announced two prior seizures of shipments of Iranian-made weapons bound for Yemen, including small arms, rocket launchers and drone parts.

The United States has distributed a draft resolution to the Security Council to renew the embargo on Iran. Russia and China have voiced opposition to the move.

Hook said Monday the weapons displayed in Riyadh “are all the evidence we need that the arms embargo on Iran must not be lifted.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier this month that cruise missiles used in a large attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last year were of “Iranian origin.”

What’s Next:  The United States has threatened to snap-back international sanctions on Tehran if the Security Council does not renew the embargo. Russia’s foreign minister has argued the United States does not have the authority to do that because the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.

International sanctions against Iran were lifted in 2015 under the nuclear deal but can be brought back if Iran violates its obligations. UN officials have reported that Iran violated some of its obligations in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the deal and imposition of unilateral sanctions in 2018.

Germany, Britain and France said this month they will not support the Trump administration’s effort if it decides to snap-back sanctions on Tehran, calling instead for a return to dialogue.

Neither the Trump administration nor Iran is likely to back down soon. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuffed Rouhani’s offer to return to negotiations with the United States if Washington apologizes to Tehran. Iran continues to deny UN nuclear inspectors access to two defunct sites over the objections of international member states. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Iran-supported Houthi rebels continue to lob ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Know More:  Iran slammed US threats to reimpose sanctions, but the Trump administration appears intent to box Tehran in, Al-Monitor reports.