The United States has dispatched approximately 1.1 million bullets confiscated from Iran last year to Ukraine, according to a statement from the US military.
The US Central Command (Centcom), responsible for overseeing Middle East operations, reported that these rounds were seized from a vessel en route to Yemen in December. Concerns had recently arisen among Ukraine’s Western allies regarding the nation’s ability to meet its ammunition demands.
Centcom disclosed that the Iranian munitions, which are of 7.62mm caliber and used in Soviet-era rifles and light machine guns, were delivered to Ukraine on Monday. We naval forces originally confiscated these munitions from an unregistered ship named MARWAN 1 on December 9. The US government took ownership of the ammunition in July through a legal process known as civil forfeiture, which allows assets to be seized if their owners are believed to be involved in criminal activities. In this case, the claim was made against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian armed forces responsible for protecting the country’s government.
Centcom emphasized its commitment to collaborating with allies and partners to lawfully counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region. Iran has been known to support Houthi rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil conflict, despite UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting arms transfers to the group since 2015.
The civil war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the country’s government. The ousted government retains international recognition and is supported by a coalition of countries in the region led by Saudi Arabia, as well as the US and the UK.
In recent months, Iran has faced accusations of supplying Russia with arms, particularly drones, for use in the Ukrainian war.
During a discussion at the Warsaw Security Forum on Monday, Adm Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, raised concerns about the dwindling ammunition supplies among NATO countries. He attributed this issue to decades of underinvestment and emphasized the need for governments and arms manufacturers to increase production significantly.
The United States has already provided more than 200 million bullets and grenades to the Ukrainian military. UK Defense Minister James Heappey called on NATO allies to allocate 2% of their national income to defense, a target agreed upon by the alliance but expected to be met by only 11 of its 31 members this year.
The transfer of Iranian ammunition comes at a time when the Biden administration is seeking alternative ways to assist Ukraine due to opposition from some members of Congress. Officials have warned that the funds allocated to Ukraine are nearly depleted, but pressure from certain factions within the Republican party has hindered the House of Representatives from approving additional funds. Furthermore, a vote to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been won by some of the same members, delaying any further aid vote until a new speaker is appointed, which is not expected to occur until at least the middle of the following week. It is likely that any future speaker attempting to bring this issue to the floor will face similar opposition.