Transfer weapons: The United States will hand over thousands of seized Iranian weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, US officials said, in a move that could help address some critical shortfalls facing Ukraine’s military as it awaits additional funding and equipment from the United States and its allies. . The US Central Command announced on Wednesday that it has handed over 1 million seized Iranian munitions to the Ukrainian armed forces. The transfer took place on Monday, the Central Command says in a press release. “The government, through the Department of Justice, filed a civil forfeiture action against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and took ownership of the ammunition on July 20, 2023,” the statement said.
The US Justice Department said in July it was seeking to seize “more than 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, approximately 194 rocket launchers, more than 70 anti-tank missiles and more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition” seized from Iran by the US Navy. . The munitions were initially seized by US Naval Forces Central Command from the transiting stateless dhow MARWAN 1 on 9 December 2022. The ammunition was transferred from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the Houthis in Yemen in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216,” the statement said.
For months, the Biden administration has been mulling how to legally ship weapons seized at Central Command facilities across the Middle East to Ukrainians. Last year, the US Navy seized thousands of Iranian assault rifles and more than a million rounds of ammunition from ships used by Iran to transport weapons to Yemen. These seizures, often carried out in cooperation with regional partner forces, target small, stateless vessels that have historically been used to smuggle weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. In mid-January, the United States helped the French military seize 3,000 assault rifles and 23 anti-tank missiles that had been shipped from Iran to Yemen. After the seizure, the US kept the seized weapons. The illegal arms seizure operation capped a two-month period in which the United States and its partners seized 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition, according to Central Command.
Justice Department and Defense Department officials have been working together to find legal ways to ship weapons to Ukraine, one of which is through U.S. civilian forfeiture authorities, the officials said. The Justice Department has filed at least two forfeiture complaints this year for seized Iranian ammunition and weapons. In addition to the July announcement, the Justice Department said in March it was seeking to seize 1 million Iranian munitions, thousands of rocket-propelled grenade proximity fuses and thousands of pounds of rocket-propelled grenade fuel seized by the Navy.
Coming from Iran and transiting through Yemen. Ultimately, Ukraine needs a variety of supplies to meet its wartime needs, and while this will not solve all of Ukraine’s military needs, it will provide essential support. In February, the Eastern Security Project of the Center for a New American Security called on the US to send seized Iranian weapons to Ukraine.
Lord added that the move could also have implications for Iran’s relations with Russia. “For over a year, Iranian drones in the hands of the Russian military have been used to attack and kill Ukrainian civilians,” Lord said. “It is poetic justice that Ukraine uses captured Iranian weapons to protect its people from Russia’s criminal invasions and abuses. Moreover, the policy could put more pressure on the burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Tehran. “
The decision is likely to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia, which have forged a de facto defense partnership in recent months, with Iran supplying drones to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Russia working with Iran on missile and air defense production.