Iran Arms Smuggling Backs Terrorists

Iran Arms Smuggling Backs Terrorists

little seen by the public, western forces are urgently seeking to contain Iran’s export of terror.

Last month, The U.S. 5th Fleet ships seized approximately 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition from a stateless fishing vessel during a “flag verification” boarding.

U.S. Navy patrol coastal ships USS Tempest and USS Typhoon found the weapons during a search conducted by  U.S. Coast Guard personnel. The illicit weapons and ammunition were later transported to guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (where they await final disposition.)

The stateless vessel was assessed to have originated in Iran and sailed international waters along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Houthis in Yemen. The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council Resolutions and U.S. sanctions.

The vessel’s five crew members identified themselves as Yemeni nationals. They are being  returned to their home country.

After removing the crew and illegal cargo, the Navy determined the stateless vessel was a hazard to navigation for commercial shipping and sank it.

U.S. naval forces regularly perform maritime security operations in the Middle East to ensure the free flow of legitimate trade and to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and other unlawful activity. U.S. Navy warships operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet region have seized approximately 8,700 illicit weapons in 2021.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey seized dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from a stateless vessel transiting the North Arabian Sea in May.

In February, guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill seized a cache of weapons off the coast of Somalia, including thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew served weapons. The inventory also included barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems.

The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses approximately 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Strait of Bab al Mandeb.

Iran is the most dominant weapon supplier to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic  Jihad .

The Israeli Security agency notes that Hamas and PIJ enjoy extensive material backing from Iran in their arming efforts, in light of Iran’s determination to amplify its influence in the Palestinian arena and among Palestinian terror groups. Iran substantiates its support of the resistance camp by providing high-quality standard weapons to both groups.

The major smuggling route is from Iran to Sudan, on to Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, and from there to the Gaza Strip, with Iran’s direct involvement in providing the arms and transferring them into the Gaza Strip.

As of 2010 hundreds of standard rockets had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip (most of long ranges of up to 20 and 40 km), as well as about a thousand mortar shells, several dozen Anti-Tank items, tons of standard explosives and raw materials for explosive production.

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