U.S. transfers 1.1M rounds of confiscated ammunition to Ukraine

The United States this week transferred 1.1 million rounds of ammunition the U.S. Navy seized in the Arabian Sea in December. Photo courtesy of U.S. Justice Department
The United States this week transferred 1.1 million rounds of ammunition the U.S. Navy seized in the Arabian Sea in December. Photo courtesy of U.S. Justice Department

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The United States transferred some 1.1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine that were confiscated in December while en route from Iran to militant groups in Yemen.

The transfer to Ukraine's armed forces was conducted Monday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. But it comes at time when the future of U.S. backing for Ukraine's war in Russia may be in jeopardy by members of the Republican Party who are questioning future funds.


The munitions were seized along with rocket-propelled grenades and thousands of pounds of rocket-propelled-grenade propellant by U.S. Central Command naval forces from the flagless dhow Marwan 1 vessel in the Arabian Sea on Dec. 9.

U.S. officials said the weaponry was being transferred in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 from Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Houthi rebels who have been waging a civil war, with backing from Tehran, against the government since 2014.


Resolution 2216 was passed by the U.N. Security Council in April 2015 to impose sanctions on those accused of undermining the stability of Yemen.

Justice Department officials explained that the U.S. government filed a forfeiture action against the rounds in late March as part of its larger investigation into Iran's weapons-smuggling network.

The officials accused the network of being involved in trafficking advanced conventional weapons systems and their components by sanctioned Iranian entities, such as the IRGC, to support the Houthi rebels in Yemen as well as Tehran's other destabilizing activities in the region.

"The forfeiture complaint alleges a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons to entities that pose grave threats to U.S. national security," the Justice Department said in a March press release.

The United States took ownership of the rounds on July 20, the department said.

"With this weapons transfer, the Justice Department's forfeiture actions against one authoritarian regime are now directly supporting the Ukrainian people's fight against another authoritarian regime," Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday in a statement.

"We will continue to use every legal authority at our disposal to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law."


At a commitment of some $44 billion in security assistance, the United States is by far the largest backer of Kyiv's defense against Russia's war. But Congressionally approved funds are dwindling and the Biden administration has called on the lawmakers to pass billions in supplemental assistance.

However, Ukraine funding has grown controversial in the United States and Europe, and funds for Kyiv present an obstacle over the weekend to pass crucial funding to prevent a U.S. government shutdown.

Ultimately, the 45-day stopgap resolution lacked any funds for Kyiv.

On Tuesday, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters that the U.S. coffers hold funding to meet Ukraine's battle needs "for just a little bit longer," but that Congress must act to ensure there is no disruption in U.S. support.

On Wednesday, State Department principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel mirrored the comments of her Defense Department counterpart.

"We cannot under any circumstances allow America's support for Ukraine to be interrupted," he said. "A lapse in support for even a short period of time could make all the difference in the battlefield, and so this is something that we're going to continue to work closely with our partners in Congress on and continue to coordinate directly."


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