U.S. Seizes Iranian Weapons Headed To Houthis

February 15, 2024

This is yet another example of Iran’s malign activity in the region.

United States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla in a statement on Thursday, announcing a U.S. interception of Iranian weapons bound for Houthis in Yemen; the Houthis will become a U.S.-designated “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” group on Friday due to their continued attacks on maritime ships in the region.

Why It Matters: Attacks by the Houthis continue on U.S. and commercial targets. In testimony yesterday in Congress, one expert said that although the U.S. has been confronting the Houthis by air, it may take more investment of time and resources to stop their threat.

On January 28, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter “seized advanced conventional weapons and other lethal aid originating in Iran and bound to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen from a vessel in the Arabian Sea,” CENTCOM says. Aboard the vessel carrying the weapons, CENTCOM found more than 200 packages containing explosives, medium-range ballistic missile components, military-grade network and communication equipment, among other weapons. Kurilla said of Iran (a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism and backer of the Houthis), “Their continued supply of advanced conventional weapons to the Houthis is in direct violation of international law and continues to undermine the safety of international shipping and the free flow of commerce.” U.S. CENTCOM (whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East) intercepted other Iranian weapons headed for Houthis in Yemen earlier in January.

Background: Since November 2023, the Houthis (a group which has been waging a civil war in Yemen since 2014) have launched several attacks against ships linked to multiple countries in the Red Sea in support of Hamas amid the Israel-Hamas war (Hamas, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is also backed by Iran). The Houthis continued attacks present dangers to mariners in the region, and impact global shipping in an area which typically accounts for about 12% of global trade. In response, the U.S. and British militaries have launched several strikes onHouthi targets in Yemen,” including multiple strikes by CENTCOM on Wednesday against weapons located in Houthi controlled areas of Yemen, that were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

Big Picture: Elsewhere in Middle East, three U.S. service members were killed and dozens injured in a January attack by an Iran-backed group in Jordan. In response, the U.S. has started launching attacks against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

Read More: CENTCOM Intercepts Iranian Weapons Shipment Intended for Houthis (U.S. Central Command)

US military says it seized Iranian weapons shipment en route to Houthis last month (France 24)

How Houthi Attacks Have Upended Global Shipping (The New York Times)

by Leah Grainery, based in Texas