The USS Normandy, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, intercepted a small sailing vessel in the Arabian Sea over the weekend and found it loaded with Iranian weapons bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The weapons included 150 anti-tank missiles and three surface-to-air missiles, plus a supply of components useful for maintaining unmanned aerial vehicles.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Thursday:
Many of these weapons systems are identical to the advanced weapons and weapon components seized by guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 25, 2019. Those weapons were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen, which would be in violation of a UN Security Council Resolution that prohibits the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis.
The USS Forrest Sherman incident was very similar, involving the seizure of a small boat in the Arabian Sea that proved to be ferrying a cache of Iranian weapons to Yemen. U.S. officials said at the time that the cache of missiles seized in November were more sophisticated than Iranian arms previously smuggled to Yemen.
“The action by the Normandy in seizing the arms cache was the first publicly announced haul haul for the U.S. Navy since a Jan. 4 drone strike at Baghdad’s International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani,” Military.com observed.
An “inter-agency and international effort” is underway to assess the weapons, Fox News reported, with U.S. partner nations and international organizations invited to inspect the cache.
“Everything points to these weapons being made in Iran. They’re all very consistent with what we know about weapons that have been made in Iran,” CENTCOM spokesman Cmdr. Zachary Harrell told Voice of America News (VOA) on Thursday.
Harrell noted that shipping such weapons to Yemen, where a bloody civil war has produced one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes, “would be in violation of a U.N. Security Council Resolution that prohibits the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis.”
Officials told VOA they could find no evidence linking the crew of the intercepted ship to militant groups. The crew members all had papers identifying themselves as Yemeni fishermen. They were released by the USS Normandy after the illicit weapons were secured.