The US military announced that it has sent approximately 1.1 million bullets, which were seized from Iran last year, to Ukraine. The US Central Command (Centcom), responsible for Middle East operations, disclosed that these rounds were taken from a vessel bound for Yemen in December. Ukraine’s Western allies had recently expressed concerns about their inability to meet Ukraine’s ammunition needs due to its rapid consumption.
Centcom confirmed that the Iranian ammunition was transferred to Ukraine on Monday after initially being confiscated by US naval forces from a stateless ship called M.A.R.W.A.N. 1 on December 9th. In July, the US government assumed ownership of these rounds through a process known as civil forfeiture, which allows assets to be seized if their owners are suspected of involvement in criminal activities. In this case, the claim was directed against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian armed forces responsible for safeguarding the country’s government.
Centcom stated its commitment to collaborating with allies and partners to legally counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region. Iran has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, but such arms transfers to the group are prohibited under a 2015 resolution by the UN Security Council. The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the country’s government. The ousted government maintains international recognition and is backed by a coalition of countries in the region led by Saudi Arabia, as well as by the US and the UK.
Since the latter half of the previous year, Iran has faced repeated accusations of supplying Russia with weaponry, particularly drones, for use in the Ukrainian conflict. At the Warsaw Security Forum on Monday, Adm Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, expressed concerns about the dwindling ammunition stocks among NATO countries. He attributed this shortage to decades of underinvestment and stressed the need for governments and arms manufacturers to significantly increase production rates to meet the demands of ongoing conflicts.
UK Defence Minister James Heappey has called upon NATO allies to allocate 2% of their national income for defense spending, a target that was collectively agreed upon by the alliance. However, only 11 out of the 31 NATO members are expected to meet this target by the end of the year.
This call for increased defense spending coincides with the transfer of Iranian ammunition to Ukraine and the Biden administration’s efforts to find alternative ways to support Ukraine, mainly due to resistance from some members of Congress.
Officials have been issuing warnings for several weeks that the allocated funds for Ukraine are nearly depleted. However, opposition from certain members of the Republican party has hindered the House of Representatives from approving additional funding.
On Tuesday, some of these same members successfully voted to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position. This development will delay any potential vote on additional aid until a replacement is selected, a process that is not expected to conclude until at least the middle of the following week.
Furthermore, even once a new Speaker is in place, it is anticipated that they will encounter similar opposition if they attempt to bring a vote on this issue to the floor.