US Sends Ukraine 1.1 Million Rounds of Ammunition Seized from Iran

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The military transferred rounds for machine guns that it said had been bound for Yemen.

Eric Schmitt

The U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement on Wednesday that earlier this week it had transferred about 1.1 million rounds for Soviet-era machine guns and rifles seized from Iran to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Allied naval forces seized the munitions in December, according to the statement, from a “stateless dhow” — essentially an unregistered wind-powered vessel — sailing to Yemen. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was sending the munitions to Houthi rebels in Yemen in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution barring such transfers, the statement said.

The U.S. government took possession of the ammunition in July through a Justice Department civil forfeiture claim against Iran, and U.S. officials began seeking a legal pathway to transfer the munitions to Ukraine.

Image

A small vessel with brown sides in a vast body of water. To the left, a much smaller boat.
A photo provided by the U.S. Navy showing sailors, left, intercepting a vessel in the Gulf of Oman in January said to contain assault rifles.Credit…U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

A Defense Department official said on Wednesday that U.S. officials were making final legal arrangements to send Ukraine other seized Iranian weapons that had been bound for Yemen, including AK-47 assault rifles.

The Iranian munitions will help fill Ukraine’s battlefield needs — supplying several days’ worth of ammunition for roughly 2,000 machine guns. However, the transfers will not address Kyiv’s most critical shortages — artillery ammunition and air defense missiles — as a tumultuous Congress debates whether to approve the Biden administration’s request for $24 billion in additional aid to Ukraine.

Western countries are having trouble getting sufficient supplies to meet their arms commitments to Ukraine, notably for artillery ammunition, and are depleting their own stocks faster than they can be replenished. Military industries shrank after the Cold War and have struggled to retool and find adequate supplies of materials to ramp up production to full capacity — and even that is not enough.

Eric Schmitt is a senior writer who has traveled the world covering terrorism and national security. He was also the Pentagon correspondent. A member of the Times staff since 1983, he has shared four Pulitzer Prizes. More about Eric Schmitt

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