The war in Yemen, though forgotten by many, returns to center stage in a new episode of Iranian aid to the Houthi revolutionary side. On this occasion, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet managed to seize a shipment of “huge” quantities of explosives that were heading towards Yemeni territory. The statement issued by the Americans claims that the quantity seized in the Gulf of Oman is sufficient to manufacture more than 10 medium-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, it is the same compound used in the weapons with which Yemeni rebels recently attacked the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
Riyadh has long accused Iran of aiding the Houthis in the war in Yemen, a fact Tehran insists on denying. The country led by Ali Khamenei is aware that the aid provided to the Houthis violates the resolutions of the UN Security Council and, moreover, the sanctions imposed by Washington. However, Iranian support, far from ceasing, has increased, as evidenced by this new seizure of weapons by the US Navy.
Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command Brad Cooper said “the illegal transfer of lethal aid from Iran is not going unnoticed.” He was highly critical of Tehran’s attitude, saying it “is irresponsible and dangerous and is leading to violence and instability throughout the Middle East.” Cooper himself said the vessel posed “a danger to the commercial transportation of goods” and pointed to the aforementioned violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216.
However, observers believe that part of the responsibility for Iran’s supply of weapons to the Houthis lies with the international community itself. US and UNSC sanctions do not prevent Tehran from continuously helping the rebel side. This is why they also point to the powers as actors who could have an impact on these sanctions, but seem unwilling to do so. It should also not be forgotten that many international powers indirectly benefit from the war in Yemen, being the main arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia.
For now, the United States has reaffirmed its position as guarantor of security in the Gulf of Oman. It should be noted that this is not the first seizure made by the United States this year. Last January, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and the coastal ship USS Chinook (PC 9) seized 40 tons of explosive urea transported on another fishing vessel at the same place and with the same destination. This operation took place only a month after the interception of another shipment of rifles and ammunition from Iran, intended to supply the Houthi forces.
The Yemeni context is indeed complicated. Despite American efforts to prevent the arrival of Iranian aid, according to the UN, the greatest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War is worsening day by day. The Yemeni population is not only directly affected by the war. It is in fact the consequences of war that ravage society. Nearly five million people suffer from malnutrition and it is expected that if the war does not end in the short term, more than 65% of the population will fall above the extreme poverty line.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra