January 10, 2022
A draft report prepared by a UN Security Council panel of experts on Yemen has revealed the role of the Iranian port of Jask on the Sea of Oman in smuggling weapons to Yemen, reported the Wall Street Journal.
“Thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons seized in the Arabian Sea by the US Navy in recent months likely originated from that single port in Iran, according to a confidential United Nations report that provides some of the most detailed evidence that Tehran is exporting arms to Yemen and elsewhere,” said the Journal.
The draft report said “small wooden boats and overland transport were used in attempts to smuggle weapons made in Russia, China and Iran along routes to Yemen that the US military has tried for years to shut down.”
The UN panel closely examined two shipments confiscated by the US Navy in 2021, all of which the report said likely originated in Jask.
A small wooden vessel known as a dhow was intercepted south of Pakistan in the Arabian Sea by the US Navy in May 2021 after leaving Jask, the report said. The boat contained 2,556 assault rifles, and 292 general-purpose machine guns and sniper rifles made in China around 2017, the report said, as well as another 164 machine guns and 194 rocket launchers consistent with those produced in Iran.
The ship also held telescopic sights made in Belarus.
In February 2021, a wooden boat loaded with weapons, manned by a Yemeni crew, was seized by the US as it was about to transfer its cargo to another small vessel near Somalia, the UN report said. The vessel carried 3,752 assault rifles that likely came from Iran, based on their technical characteristics, along with hundreds of other weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers, the report said.
Iran has openly supported the Houthi in their conflict in Yemen and abroad, but has long denied providing the militias with arms. Iran told the UN panel that its weapons weren’t sold, transferred or exported to Yemen.
Deliveries of weapons to the Houthis is a violation of a UN arms embargo imposed on the militias since 2015.
Once an obscure port that exported fruits and vegetables to Oman, Jask is a small port town in Iran’s southeast that has grown in strategic significance in the past decade. In 2008, it started hosting a naval base, and an oil-export terminal opened there last year.
US officials said Jask has been used as a departure point for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps for some time, but the UN report provides the first detailed evidence about specific arms shipments tied to the port.
Iran’s smuggling of weapons to the Houthis has loomed over talks in Vienna to revive the international deal to limit Tehran’s nuclear program, with many countries calling for more limits on Iran’s support for militias, said the Journal.