Iran Guards find new route to arm Houthis

New route uses waters off Kuwait

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

Mil­i­tary Equip­ment

Ef­forts to in­ter­cept mil­i­tary equip­ment by the coali­tion have had lim­ited suc­cess, with no re­ported mar­itime seizures of weapons or am­mu­ni­tion dur­ing 2017 so far and only a few seizures on the main land route from the east of Ye­men. In­de­pen­dent UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who mon­i­tor Ye­men sanc­tions, told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in their lat­est con­fi­den­tial re­port, which Reuters has seen, that they con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial arms traf­fick­ing routes.

They said the United Arab Emi­rates - which is part of the coali­tion - had re­ported 11 at­tacks since Sept 2016 against its ground forces by Houthis us­ing drones, or UAVs, armed with ex­plo­sives. “Al­though Houthi-aligned me­dia an­nounced that the Sanaa-based Min­istry of De­fence could man­u­fac­ture the UAV, in re­al­ity they are as­sem­bled from com­po­nents supplied by an out­side source and shipped into Ye­men,” the re­port said.

The re­port added that the Houthis “will even­tu­ally de­plete their lim­ited stock of mis­siles.” This would force the Houthis to end a cam­paign of mis­sile at­tacks against Saudi ter­ri­tory un­less they are re­sup­plied from ex­ter­nal sources. An ear­lier UN re­port in Jan­uary said the Houthis needed to re­plen­ish stocks of anti-tank guided weapons. The arms smug­gling op­er­a­tion may not turn the tide of the con­flict, but it will al­low the Houthis re­ceive sta­ble sup­plies of equip­ment that is oth­er­wise hard to ob­tain.

Safe Route

“The vol­ume of the ac­tiv­ity, I don’t call it a trade, is not very large. But it is a safe route,” a sec­ond se­nior Ira­nian of­fi­cial said. “Smaller Ira­nian ports are being used for the ac­tiv­ity as ma­jor ports might at­tract at­ten­tion.” Asked if the IRGC was in­volved, the sec­ond of­fi­cial said: “No ac­tiv­ity goes ahead in the Gulf with­out the IRGC being in­volved. This ac­tiv­ity in­volves a huge amount of money as well as trans­fer­ring equip­ment to Ira­nian-backed groups in their fight against their en­e­mies.” A third se­nior Ira­nian of­fi­cial also con­firmed the ship­ment ac­tiv­ity and pointed to IRGC in­volve­ment.

The IRGC is Iran’s most pow­er­ful in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity force, with a so­phis­ti­cated in­tel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance net­work to­gether with elite units which are play­ing a key role in the war in Syria in sup­port of the gov­ern­ment. The IRGC de­clined to com­ment on the arms ship­ments and Ira­nian for­eign min­istry of­fi­cials could not im­me­di­ately be reached.

Houthi of­fi­cials were also not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment but in March a Houthi leader, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied, said ac­cu­sa­tions that Iran was smug­gling weapons into Ye­men were an at­tempt to cover up Saudi Ara­bia’s fail­ure to pre­vail in the war there. Kuwaiti of­fi­cials did not re­spond to ques­tions. A US Navy spokesman said he had no in­for­ma­tion on the mat­ter.

“(The ter­ri­to­rial waters of) Iran, Kuwait and Iraq in the north­ern...Gulf butt up against each other,” said Gerry North­wood, of mar­itime se­cu­rity firm MAST and a for­mer Bri­tish Royal Navy cap­tain who has com­manded war­ships in the re­gion. “There is still plenty of room for smug­glers to op­er­ate. In fact the whole Per­sian Gulf is a hive of small boat ac­tiv­ity. And this is in an area where one man’s il­le­git­i­mate trade is an­other’s le­git­i­mate trade.”

Hun­dreds of ships sail through the Bab Al-Man­deb and Strait of Hor­muz ev­ery day - wa­ter­ways which pass along the coasts of Ye­men and Iran. Many are small dhows, which are hard to track. Western ship­ping and se­cu­rity sources said that since March there had been an in­crease in sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing Ira­nian-flagged ships in waters near Kuwait. — Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.