US Navy seizes thousands of smuggled rifles in Gulf of Oman, blames Iran
Stars and Stripes January 10, 2023
The U.S. Navy accused Iran of smuggling weapons and war supplies for at least the third time in recent months, following the seizure of more than 2,000 rifles from a fishing vessel transiting the Gulf of Oman.
A boarding crew from Navy patrol coastal ship USS Chinook intercepted the vessel carrying 2,116 AK-47 rifles on Jan. 6 along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen, Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement Tuesday.
“This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT and the 5th Fleet, said in the statement.
The Navy detained six Yemeni citizens, whose repatriations are in progress, the NAVCENT statement said.
The patrol coastal ship USS Monsoon and the destroyer USS The Sullivans supported the interdiction, the statement said.
Last week’s seizure comes after more than 170 tons of potentially explosive chemicals were seized on a fishing vessel in November. And last month, 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and rocket propellants were captured on another vessel, 5th Fleet has said.
Analysts say Iran and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are locked in a cold war of armed proxy groups, covert attacks and influence peddling.
The U.S. has levied numerous sanctions on Iran in recent months, accusing Tehran of carrying out a brutal national crackdown on protests.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan accused Iran on Monday of “contributing to widespread war crimes” in Ukraine due to Tehran’s sales of combat drones to Russia, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. says that smuggling to militant groups has increased in recent years in the busy shipping lanes of the Middle East.
Iran has been accused of transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, despite a United Nations arms embargo.
The U.S. Navy says it hopes to build a 100-vessel fleet of unmanned surface ships, or drone boats, to patrol the waters of the Middle East by the end of summer.