The USS Forrest Sherman seized missile parts found onboard a boat in the Gulf of Oman last week, an anonymous US official told the Associated Press Wednesday. The official said the weapons were linked to Iran and believed to be bound for Yemen and the Shiite Houthi militant movement there.
The anonymous official did not say how many missiles or parts were found, only that a small wooden boat had aroused US suspicion by not flying a country flag, prompting the destroyer to stop and search it.
‘Fake and Fabricated’ Accusations
The US and its allies have accused Tehran of supporting the Houthi movement before, claiming Iran is fighting a proxy war against its regional rival Saudi Arabia, which has waged a bloody war in Yemen against the Houthis for nearly five years.
In December 2017, then-US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley presented what she called the “smoking gun” of Iranian support for the Houthis: pieces of a missile fired at Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport just outside the capital of Riyadh, which she claimed were of Iranian origin.
Iran’s envoy to the UN at the time, Gholamali Khoshroo, said the accusations were “fake and fabricated,” an attitude generally shared at the time even by US allies. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, later explained the Houthis had overhauled older missiles themselves, turning them into more potent weapons.
Washington renewed the accusation in June 2019 following the downing of a US drone over Yemen by Houthi forces. The US said the anti-air missile that struck the drone had been provided to the Houthis by Iran, but as Sputnik reported, the old, Soviet-made weapon was sold to dozens of nations decades ago and could have been bought anywhere.
US allies split in September over the issue of who carried out the aerial attack on two Saudi Aramco petroleum sites in eastern Saudi Arabia: Washington claimed the missiles were fired from Iran, while Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz claimed the Houthis carried out the attack, as the group itself claimed, but at Tehran’s orders.
The Houthis have been fighting a war against the Saudi-led coalition since March 2015, when the group forced Yemeni President Adrabbuh Mansur Hadi out of office.
The Zaidi Shiite group represented a diverse alliance of Yemenis disaffected by Hadi’s federalization plans and slashing of state welfare benefits, both of which hit the northern border areas the Houthis call home extremely hard.
The Saudis claim to be defending the Yemeni government’s sovereignty, but they and their chief partners, the United Arab Emirates, have also found erstwhile allies in the radical Islamist militias active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which now controls much of the country’s southeast.
Via Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, US weapons have been found in the hands of these militias in large numbers, including American MRAP anti-mine vehicles, French LeClerc main battle tanks and Agrab Mk2s, a unique vehicle of South African design.