Senior U.S. military commanders confirmed on Thursday that an American warship intercepted in November a shipment of Iranian-made weapons and missile components destined for Yemen, where Tehran has been arming terrorist rebel forces.
Reports emerged this week of a U.S. interception that occurred late last month, and were confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon by Pentagon officials familiar with the situation.
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The weapons shipment represents a further escalation by Iran as it seeks to arm anti-American terrorist factions across the Middle East. The weapons and missile parts seized by U.S. military personnel are among the most sophisticated officials have seen. The smuggling operation directly violates a United Nations Security Council resolution.
U.S. military personnel are currently investigating how Tehran is smuggling arms into Yemen and other regional hotspots.
"On Nov. 25, a U.S. warship conducted a flag verification boarding in the Arabian sea in accordance with international law of what was subsequently determined to be a stateless vessel, and discovered a cache of weapons and advanced missile components," Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a defense department spokesperson, told the Free Beacon. "An initial investigation indicates that these advanced missile components are of Iranian origin. A more thorough investigation is underway."
The topic of Iranian smuggling operations was raised this week at a bilateral meeting in Portugal between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The first subject that I will raise is Iran, the second subject is Iran, and so is the third, and many more," Netanyahu said on Wednesday before heading into a closed-door meeting with Pompeo.
"Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak even today in the region," the Israeli leader said. "They're trying to have staging grounds against us and the region from Iran itself, from Iraq, from Syria, from Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen, and we are actively engaged in countering that aggression. And I think that the Israeli-American cooperation is key to that effort that I think serves the purposes of the many, many countries in the region. That will be the first subject that I will raise, including the ability to strengthen even further our mutual defenses."
Iran has also been caught sending ballistic missiles and other short-range armaments into Iraq in a bid to expand its regional military influence. Tehran's continued expansion across the region has prompted the Trump administration to consider sending another 14,000 American troops into the Middle East to combat the threat.