image Photo: Reuters

UN: Iran smuggling weapons to Yemen

A confidential United Nations report has provided “detailed evidence” that Iran is exporting arms to Yemen and elsewhere, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

By Erin Viner

A team of experts appointed by the UN Security Council, said the paper, believe that “thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons” confiscated in the Arabian Sea by the US Navy in recent months were likely shipped from a single port in Iran.”

Citing ship crews and data from navigational instruments found on board suspected smuggling vessels, the UN report said identified “weapons made in Russia, China and Iran” were transported along routes to Yemen from the Islamic Republic’s Jask Port on the Sea of Oman.

A UNSC-imposed embargo has been in effect since 2015 against arms shipments to the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement that is battling Yemen’s internationally recognized government and other targets, including Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea.

While Iran openly supports the Houthis, it has long denied providing the Islamist group with arms. “Iran has not sold, exported, or transferred any arms, ammunition, or related equipment to Yemen in contravention of Security Council resolutions,” the country’s UN mission said in an emailed statement to the WSJ.

Disputing the Iranian claims, US officials cited by the WSJ said “Jask has been used as a departure point for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for some time” and that the UN report “provides the first detailed evidence about specific arms shipments tied to the port.”

Moreover, the confidential UN findings “provide a rare detailed view into Iran’s alleged support for armed groups across the Middle East,” said the Journal, which reviewed the report.

The US Navy announced the overall seizure of 8,700 weapons along the suspected Iran-Houthi route last year, including 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition. Specific incidents cited by the UN panel of experts reportedly include:

  • The imminent transfer from a boat operated by a Yemeni crew to another vessel near Somalia in February 2021 of cargo containing 3,752 assault rifles likely made in Iran, and hundreds of other weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers.


  • The interception of a ship south of Pakistan in May 2021 containing 2,556 assault rifles, 292 China-produced machine guns and sniper rifles, 164 machine guns and 194 rocket launchers similar to the kind manufactured in Iran, telescopic sights made in Belarus, and additional weapons from Russia and Bulgaria.


  • Iran-China manufactured thermal weapon sights in June 2021 confiscatedat a crossing between Oman and Yemen.


  • A stateless fishing vessel manned by 5 Yemeni crew members in the North Arabian Sea that departed Iran in December 2021, described by US State Department Spokesman Ned Price as, “another example of how malign Iranian activity is prolonging the war in Yemen.”

Despite international efforts to secure a truce, at least 377,000 people are believed to have been killed in the Yemeni Civil War that erupted in 2014. The UN describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the 30 million population in need of assistance.

The official name of the Houthi forces is “Ansar Allah,” meaning “Allah’s Supporters” in Arabic. The armed Islamist political movement formed in northern Yemen during the 1990s. Both they and Iran are followers of Shi’ite Islam, as is Tehran’s other proxy militia, the Hezbollah terror group. The Houthis slogan since 2003 has been “Allah is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.”

In related developments, UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo announced last month that a report would soon be “forthcoming” on analyzation of 6 ballistic missiles, a cruise missile and several unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs) used in attacks against Saudi Arabia; weapons Riyadh said had been transferred from Tehran to the Houthis.

“Similarly, debris from an alleged Iranian UAV that had entered Israeli airspace via Jordan was also examined. Israeli authorities believe the UAV was launched from either Iraq or Syria,” reported the UN News agency.