Last month there was a joint operation to seize weapons shipments to Yemen supposedly meant for the Houthi rebels. The weapons originated out of Iran and included machine guns, anti-tank missiles, and rifles. This seizure comes after a long line of findings tracing shipped weaponry back to Tehran.
This joint operation was credited to the French Naval Forces with the help of other allies in the region. The location of the seizure was the gulf of Oman which is a hot route for the illicit arms trade. The boat that was carrying the munitions was an Iranian fishing vessel.
Iran has been accused by many Western Nations for dealing illicit arms. They are believed to have contributed to what some analyst are describing as a “cold war” of proxy groups, rebels, and militias. This also comes after Iran sold combat drones to the Russian’s which are believed to have contributed to war crimes in Ukraine.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has stated that this is one of four major interdictions in the region that has stopped “5000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition” from entering Yemen and potentially making a bad situation worse. The crackdown on the illicit arms trade in the area comes after Iran’s Russian drone deal and a UN resolution that banned the sale of weapons to the Houthi rebels back when they overthrew the government of Yemen in 2014.
The US and its allies in the region have had many problems with Iran trying to ship illegal weaponry to rebel groups in the past. 2021 and 2022 the 5th fleet and its allies secured over 9000 weapons and millions of pieces of ammunition each year. There have also been the materials to build missiles and other explosives that would potentially be used against Western allies in the region.
Iran has a lot to gain from these weapons shipments and very little to lose. Destabilizing the region provides distractions to CENTCOM and its allies. If the weapons make it to their destination they are distributed to many different cells and groups and more than likely end up being used against allied forces. If the weapons do not make it, the Iranians are generally able to deny involvement and continue on with their manufacturing and sale.
Unfortunately, its much worse than a siphon on resources in Yemen. The amount of weapons and munitions that are in circulation in the region already have created a major humanitarian crisis. Amnesty International suggest that over 18 billion USD have been poured into weapons deals in the region.
There is evidence that all sides of the Yemen conflict have been using illegal weapons to indiscriminately bomb civilian areas. Air strikes, mortars, and missile attacks have all played a major role in the large amount of civilian deaths. Although CENTCOM has a primary goal of deterring Iran, a secondary but equally important goal is to resolve some of the humanitarian issues by seizing weapons.
Although there is no end in sight for the conflict the continued efforts to prevent illegal arms from making their way to the battlefield will be beneficial to seeing the end of the conflict.