An operation by Western allies, led by France, reportedly seized a shipment of weapons and ammunition allegedly sent to Yemen from Iran last month, the US military said.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday that more than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 anti-tank guided missiles had been recovered during the Jan. 15 operation in the Gulf of Oman.
CENTCOM, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, said the US supported the interdiction operation but did not specify which partner led it.
But the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the operation, said it was carried out by French special forces.
In a statement, CENTCOM said the operation was conducted “along the route historically used for the illicit trafficking of arms from Iran to Yemen.”
But Iran dismissed the statement, saying the US allegations were “politically motivated” and aimed at “misleading the world’s people.”
A spokesman for Tehran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanani, said in a statement on Thursday that the country that sold weapons to the country that “invaded” Yemen “is in no position to condemn others.”
The United States is a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, which launched an operation in Yemen to drive out Iran-backed Houthi rebels who captured the capital Sana’a in 2015.
Iran, meanwhile, is widely reported to have provided material support to Houthi rebels during the Seven Years’ War, but Tehran has rejected this claim.
On January 6, US forces intercepted a fishing vessel carrying more than 2,100 assault rifles in the Gulf of Oman. It is believed that this fishing vessel was also heading from Iran to Yemen.
U.S. forces seized a boat carrying a large amount of ammunition, chemicals, fuse and rocket propellant believed to be aimed at Houthi rebels who launched rockets and attacked drones in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last December. .
However, Yemen has also become an important hub for the arms trade with East Africa, with weapons being sold by traders based in Yemen to rebel groups in Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.