USCG Cutter Assigned to CENTCOM AOR Intercepts Iranian Weapons Shipment to Yemen

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What to Know:

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has reported that an American Coast Guard cutter, while assigned to the CENTCOM AOR, intercepted an Iranian weapons shipment on January 28 in international waters of the Arabian Sea, which was heading to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The Operation:

CENTCOM confirmed that while assigned to the assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Coast Guard Sentinel-class fast-response cutter “Clarence Sutphin Jr.” located and boarded a dhow in the Arabian Sea, resulting in the seizure of “advanced conventional weapons and other lethal aid originating in Iran and bound to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.”

Boarding teams seized 200 packages that contained “medium-range ballistic missile components, explosives, unmanned underwater/surface vehicle (UUV/USV) components, military-grade communication and network equipment, anti-tank guided missile launcher assemblies, and other military components,” according to CENTCOM.

CENTCOM also noted how the “direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of such aid violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216,” which is in relation to the arms embargo against Houthi forces.

“This is yet another example of Iran’s malign activity in the region,” CENTCOM Commander Michael Erik Kurilla stated, adding that “Their continued supply of advanced conventional weapons to the Houthis is in direct violation of international law and continues to undermine the safety of international shipping and the free flow of commerce.”


While American interceptions of Iranian weapons shipments to Yemen have been ongoing for several years, this marks the second operation confirmed by CENTCOM since operations against the Houthis began on January 11 in response to attacks against commercial shipping vessels in the region. As previously reported, weapons seized during previous operations have been sent to Ukraine to aid in war efforts against Russian forces.

The first known seizure occurred on January 11, where a nighttime VBSS operation off the coast of Somalia targeted “a dhow conducting illegal transport of advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen as part of the Houthis’ ongoing campaign of attacks against international merchant shipping.” Similar to the latest seizure, the dhow was transporting missile components.

During this operation, two Navy SEALs, identified as Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, went overboard due to rough waters. After a weeklong search, both were declared lost at sea, marking the first active duty deaths of American servicemen in support of operations against the Houthis.

The latest seizure is interesting to note because it involved a Coast Guard vessel. I know many people will ask “What is a U.S. Coast Guard cutter doing in the Middle East?” The Coast Guard is authorized to enforce international law within international waters, as well as enforce U.S. laws extraterritorially to American and stateless vessels. Cutters are often deployed to the Middle East, South America, and the Indo-Pacific to operate against weapons smuggling, drug smuggling, illegal fishing, and piracy with the help of regional partner nations. Likewise, the U.S. Navy often utilizes Coast Guard boarding teams to carry out law enforcement operations against vessels suspected of illegal activities.