The U.S. Navy made a startling announcement on Sunday. It had seized an arms shipment of thousands of assault weapons, machine guns, and sniper rifles. Sailors found the hidden weapons aboard a ship in the Arabian Sea. The vessel was on its way to Yemen where its contents would be delivered to the country’s Houthi rebels. The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons aboard what the Navy describes as a traditional Mideast sailing ship known as a dhow––a one- or two-masted Arab sailing vessel. The discovery was part of an operation that began on May 6 in the northern part of the Arabian Sea off Oman and Pakistan. Sailors boarded the vessel that was carrying the plastic-wrapped weapons below deck.
The trove included nearly 3,000 Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, hundreds of heavy machine guns, sniper rifles, and dozens of advanced anti-tank guided missiles. Several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical sights were also seized. Initial interviews of the dhow crew tie the vessel to Iran.
In the past, Iran has denied putting weapons into the hands of rebels. But this latest arms seizure strongly suggests that the Islamic Republic at least attempted arming Houthis. This action occurred despite an arms embargo set in place by the United Nations restricting such aid.
The arms seizure comes as the United States and others are trying to end a conflict that created humanitarian disasters in Yemen. One of the Arab world’s poorest countries, Yemen’s civil war started in 2011. Houthi insurgents forced the country’s president to hand over power. The rebels began taking over strategic regions of the country, with the goal to control the entire nation. They have shrouded the region in terror and chaos.
David’s cry in Psalm 140:1-2 is a prayer we can boldly make for the nation of Yemen today. “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries entered the war in 2015 while Iran backs the Houthis. U.N. experts warn “an increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”
Peace talks are failing as the civilian death toll climbs. Thousands are dying from malnutrition, disease, and poor health, as well as from innumerable Saudi-led coalition air strikes. Yemen is overflowing with small arms, smuggled into the country’s poorly controlled ports over years of conflict. This most recent weapons seizure appears to be among the biggest.
(Weapons that the U.S. Navy discovered aboard a stateless dhow are seen aboard the USS Monterey on May 8, 2021. U.S. Navy via AP)