The US has delivered more than a million rounds of Iranian ammunition to Ukraine, which is facing a prolonged conflict with Russia-backed separatists in its eastern regions. The ammunition was confiscated by the US naval forces in the Gulf last year, as they were allegedly destined for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
US claims ownership of Iranian munitions
The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it had transferred 1.1 million rounds of 7.62mm small arms ammunition to Ukraine on Monday, as part of its support for the country’s fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The ammunition was seized from a stateless ship named MARWAN 1 on 9 December 2022, by the US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees operations in the Middle East. The US government gained ownership of the munitions in July through a process known as civil forfeiture, by which an asset can be seized if its owner is involved in criminal activity. In this case, the claim was brought against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian armed forces tasked with preserving the country’s government. Iran backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, but arms transfers to the group are barred under a 2015 resolution by the UN Security Council.
Ukraine welcomes US assistance amid Russian aggression
Ukraine has been locked in a deadly conflict with Russia-backed separatists in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and supported an uprising against Kyiv’s pro-Western government. More than 13,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by the fighting, which has seen frequent violations of a shaky ceasefire agreement. Ukraine’s Western allies have provided diplomatic, financial and military assistance to Kyiv, but have stopped short of supplying lethal weapons, fearing an escalation of the war. However, some countries, such as the UK and Canada, have recently announced plans to send more defensive equipment and training to Ukraine, amid growing concerns over Russia’s military buildup near its borders. The US has also pledged to increase its security cooperation with Ukraine, and has sent roughly $2.5 billion worth of aid since 2014, including anti-tank missiles, radars and drones. The delivery of the seized Iranian ammunition is seen as another sign of US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Iran denies involvement in Yemen and Ukraine wars
Iran has repeatedly denied supplying arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine. Tehran has accused the US and its allies of fabricating evidence to justify their intervention in the region and their sanctions against Iran. Iran has also condemned the US decision to transfer the seized munitions to Ukraine, calling it a violation of international law and a provocation against peace and stability. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Wednesday that the US move was “a clear example of Washington’s destructive role in creating and fueling crises in different parts of the world”. He added that Iran would pursue legal action against the US for confiscating its property.