US Hands Over Seized Iranian Guns And Ammo To Ukraine

(U.S. Central Command Public Affairs Courtesy Photo)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The U.S. transferred thousands of machine guns, rifles, rocket grenades and ammunition rounds to Ukraine that it had confiscated from Iranian smugglers over the past few months, the military said Tuesday.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has illegally shipped weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen for years, including parts for advanced conventional weapons. The U.S. Department of Justice allowed the Pentagon to officially assume ownership of the seized weapons on Dec. 1, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in the statement, as Washington scrambles to gin up weapons and ammunition to restore Ukraine’s fast-dwindling supplies.

“These weapons will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion,” CENTCOM said. (RELATED: Russia’s Military ‘Almost Completely Reconstituted’ As Ukraine Scrambles For Weapons, Conscripts, Officials Say)

The weapons officially handed over on Thursday — 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPGs and more than 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition — are enough to equip one Ukrainian brigade — roughly 4,000 troops — with small arms rifles, CENTCOM said.

CENTCOM and partner naval forces in the Red Sea interdicted four different stateless smuggling vessels between May 22, 2021, and February 15, 2023, according to the statement. Iran armed its proxy in Yemen “in violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216,” CENTCOM said.

“Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, diplomatic personnel, and citizens in the region, as well as those of our partners. We will continue to do whatever we can to shed light on and stop Iran’s destabilizing activities,” CENTCOM said.

The Houthis have attacked U.S. and partner warships and commercial shipping in the Red Sea dozens of times since November primarily with missiles and drones whose designs and components originating in Iran.

Thursday’s transfer is the second instance where the U.S. has donated confiscated Iranian-origin weapons to Ukraine. CENTCOM announced in October the transfer of 1.1 million 7.62mm rounds to the Ukrainian armed forces that had been seized in December of the prior year.

The DOJ’s civil forfeiture claims a provides a legal basis for the U.S. to take possession of the weapons, the statements say.

USCENTCOM seizes Iranian advanced conventional weapons. After transfer, all material was unpacked and confirmed to be advanced conventional weapons.

USCENTCOM seizes Iranian advanced conventional weapons. After transfer, all material was unpacked and confirmed to be advanced conventional weapons. (U.S. Central Command Public Affairs Courtesy Photo)

The Coast Guard confiscated more than 200 packages on Jan. 28 containing “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,” CENTCOM said. In a previous instance on Jan. 11, when the U.S. military intercepted and seized illicit weapons, a specialized U.S. Navy team took the crew into custody and sank the smuggling vessel.

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