In a recent report published by a U.S. senior defense official, the Pentagon is now heavily considering sending illicit, intercepted weapons taken from Iran to the Ukrainian military. The shipment would include around 5,000 weapons and approximately 1.6 million rounds of ammunition hauled from an Iranian cargo ship off the coast of Yemen. The potential move exposes the extent to which the U.S. is willing to go in order to supply Ukraine with as much firepower as possible in their now year-long war with Russia.
By Kristina Wong; February 15, 2023
The Pentagon is considering sending illicit weapons intercepted from Iran to Ukraine, a defense official and a recent report outline.
On Monday, Breitbart News asked a senior defense official on a press conference call: “Does the U.S. have weapons stocks or intercepted illicit arms in any of the [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries that it has sent or is considering sending to Ukraine?”
The official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Dana Stroul, responded:
I wouldn’t want to get out ahead of any decisions. The most important focus we have right now is on working with our partners to continue the really impressive pace of interdicting weapons, working through the combined task forces, and then making sure that we can hold Iran accountable for its continued shipment of illicit weapons, both by the press releases, shining a public light, and then making sure that others, such as the UN panel of experts, has access to those weapons.
Also during the conference call, Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander of Fifth Fleet and U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said the U.S. has led a naval task force of 38 nations that has seized “more than 5,000 weapons, 1.6 million rounds of ammunition, and 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets” off the coast of Yemen from Iran.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported U.S. officials are looking at sending that haul to Ukraine.
The potential move indicates the U.S. is looking at every possible means to find weapons for Ukraine in a year-long war that has devoured stocks of weapons held by the U.S. and its allies who are supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Just weeks ago, the Department of Defense admitted that it was sending Ukraine weapons from their stocks in Israel and South Korea. Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters then, on whether the U.S. was running low on weapon stockpiles at home:
I wouldn’t say that. I mean, the Secretary has always said we’re not going to drop below our readiness levels. … We have to go to other sources, other places to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs and to also be able to backfill our own stocks and work on backfilling partners and allies.
Monday’s press conference came after U.S. defense officials met with representatives from the GCC countries, which include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, for discussions.
Stroul said the group spent time discussing Iranian arms being illegally trafficked to Russia for use in Ukraine. Now, ironically, they could be sent to Ukraine for use against Russia.
The U.S. Navy leads an 11-member nation coalition called the International Maritime Security Construct, which has an operational arm, Task Force Sentinel, whose members include: Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
Cooper said the task force has seized nearly 15,000 illegal arms since 2021 that were “unlawfully headed to Yemen.”
The decision to send seized Iranian weapons to Ukraine may implicate members of the GCC in choosing a side in the Ukraine-Russian War, which some members have been hesitant to do due to cooperation with Russia in other areas.
“Although loosely allied with Western powers like the United States, they’ve been reluctant to get fully on board with anti-Russian measures,” Eugene Chausovsky, a senior analyst at the Newslines Institute wrote in Foreign Policy last week.
Stroul declined to say what exactly was discussed with the GCC countries, but said
Broadly what I do want to say is that we talk with all partners, in the Middle East and frankly across the globe, about our increasing concerns about Iranian-Russian military cooperation, and the fact that that is directly responsible for the deaths of Ukrainian civilians and the devastation of Ukrainian infrastructure and the implications of the battlefield practice that both are getting for what we could see here in the Middle East.