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Saturday, June 22, 2024

The US Sends 1.1 Million Seized Bullets from Iran to Ukraine

In a strategic move to bolster Ukraine’s ammunition reserves, the United States has taken a significant step by sending approximately 1.1 million bullets, confiscated from an Iranian shipment, to Ukraine. This resolute action by the US Central Command (Centcom) underscores its commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of growing concerns about the nation’s ammunition shortage.

The Iranian Ammunition Seizure

The ammunition in question, totaling 1.1 million rounds, was originally seized by US naval forces from a stateless ship named MARWAN 1 on December 9th. These rounds, with a caliber of 7.62mm, are primarily used in Soviet-era rifles and light machine-guns. The US government, in an assertion of its commitment to countering illegal arms trafficking, gained ownership of these munitions in July through a process known as civil forfeiture. This legal procedure allows assets to be seized if their owners are suspected of engaging in criminal activity. In this case, the claim was brought against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian armed forces responsible for safeguarding the country’s government.

A Small Yet Valuable Contribution

While the quantity of ammunition may appear relatively small in comparison to Ukraine’s overall needs, it is essential to note that this shipment represents a significant boost to Ukraine’s ammunition reserves. Ukraine’s Western allies have voiced concerns about their production capacity struggling to meet the rate at which Ukraine is consuming ammunition. To put this into perspective, the US has already provided more than 200 million bullets and grenades to Ukraine.

The Broader Context

This transfer of Iranian ammunition is not only about augmenting Ukraine’s capabilities but also part of a broader geopolitical context. Iran has been implicated in supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil war. However, arms transfers to the Houthi group have been explicitly prohibited under a 2015 UN Security Council resolution. The civil war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthi faction took control of the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The deposed government continues to enjoy support from a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including the US and the UK.

Additionally, Iran has faced repeated allegations of supplying Russia with arms, including drones, for use in the conflict in Ukraine. This situation underscores the complexities and interconnections of regional conflicts and the need for careful consideration of arms transfers.

Western Allies’ Concerns

Amidst these developments, concerns among Western allies have been growing regarding their ability to continue supporting Ukraine adequately. At the Warsaw Security Forum, Adm Rob Bauer, the chairman of NATO’s military committee, emphasized the urgency of the situation. He noted that years of underinvestment had left NATO countries with ammunition stocks only half-full or even emptier at the outset of the conflict. This underscores the need for governments and arms manufacturers to ramp up production urgently.

Calls for Increased Defense Spending

In a related call to action, UK Defence Minister James Heappey urged NATO allies to meet the agreed-upon target of spending 2% of their national income on defense. While this target has been endorsed by the entire NATO bloc, only 11 of its 31 members are expected to achieve it this year. The need for greater financial commitment to defense is evident, given the geopolitical challenges faced by the alliance.

The Biden Administration’s Dilemma

This transfer of Iranian ammunition comes at a critical juncture for the Biden administration, which is seeking alternative ways to provide assistance to Ukraine. The administration has been warning for weeks that the funds allocated for Ukraine are nearly depleted. However, opposition from some members of the Republican right in Congress has hindered the approval of additional funds.

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Furthermore, recent developments, such as the successful vote to unseat House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, will likely delay any vote on further aid until a new Speaker is installed, which is not expected to happen until at least the middle of the next week. Even then, any future Speaker who brings a vote on the issue to the floor is likely to encounter similar opposition.

In conclusion, the US’s decision to send 1.1 million seized Iranian bullets to Ukraine represents a significant step in supporting Ukraine’s efforts in the ongoing conflict. This action, combined with the broader geopolitical context, underscores the need for Western allies to address ammunition shortages and increase defense spending to meet the challenges of an ever-changing global landscape.

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