US Navy seizes shipment of Iranian explosives from Houthis in Gulf of Oman

The quantity intercepted by the Americans amounts to 70 tonnes of ammonium chlorate and 100 tonnes of urea fertiliser

AFP/KARIM SAHIB  -   A fishing boat entering the harbour of the southern city of Aden, located at the mouth of the Red Sea.

The Yemen war, although forgotten by many, is back on the scene in a new episode of Iranian aid to the revolutionary Houthi side. On this occasion, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet has managed to seize a shipment of "enormous" quantities of explosives that were headed for Yemeni territory. The statement issued by the Americans claims that the quantity seized in the Gulf of Oman is enough to make 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 that Tehran insists it denies. The country led by Ali Khamenei is aware that the aid provided to the Houthis violates UN Security Council resolutions and, moreover, sanctions imposed by Washington. However, Iranian support, far from ceasing, has increased, as demonstrated by this new seizure of weapons by the US Navy.

REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH - A boy sits among Houthi supporters during a Houthi rally in Sana'a, Yemen.

The commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Brad Cooper, stated that "the illegal transfer of lethal aid from Iran does not go unnoticed". He was highly critical of Tehran's attitude, saying it "is irresponsible and dangerous and leads to violence and instability throughout the Middle East". Cooper himself said the vessel posed "a danger to commercial cargo shipping" and pointed to the aforementioned violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
However, observers believe that part of the responsibility for Iran's arms supply to the Houthis lies with the international community itself. Both US and UNSC sanctions are not preventing Tehran from continuously assisting the rebel side. This is why they also point to the powers as actors that could have an impact on these sanctions, but do not seem willing to do so. Nor should it be forgotten that many of the international powers are indirectly benefiting from the war in Yemen, being the main suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia.

PHOTO/AP - In this April 13, 2017 file photo, Yemenis present documents to receive food rations provided by a local charity, in Sanaa, Yemen.

As for the present, the US has reaffirmed its position as the guarantor of security in the Gulf of Oman. It should be noted that this is not the first seizure the US has made this year. Back in January, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and the coastal vessel USS Chinook (PC 9) seized 40 tons of explosive urea transported on another fishing vessel in the same location and with the same destination. This operation took place only a month after intercepting another shipment of rifles and ammunition from Iran, which was intended to supply Houthi forces.
The Yemeni context is indeed complicated. Despite US efforts to prevent the arrival of Iranian aid, the, according to the UN, biggest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II is worsening by the day. The Yemeni population is not only directly affected by the war. It is in fact the consequences of the war that are wreaking havoc on 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 rise above the extreme poverty line.

Americas coordinator: José Antonio Sierra