DOJ Announces US Navy Seized Iranian Terrorist Arms Shipments Bound for Militants in Yemen

The U.S. Navy seized two large caches of Iranian terrorist weaponry that were headed to insurgents in Yemen, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday.

This represents the United States' largest-ever seizure of weapon shipments from Iran.

The seized weapons were removed from two separate vessels in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively, and included 171 surface-to-air missiles, eight anti-tank missiles, as well as "land attack cruise missile components, anti-ship cruise missile components, thermal weapons optics and other components," according to DOJ documents.

The operation was conducted in the Arabian Sea while the Navy was conducting a routine patrol of the area, the DOJ said. The shipment of arms was set up and funded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces that the U.S. has designated a terrorist group.

The IRGC is reportedly used as a front for the Iranian government to "provide support to terrorist organizations, provide cover for associated covert operations, and create instability in the region," according to the U.S. State Department. The United States designated the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019.

US Naval Ships
The DOJ announced that the U.S. Navy had confiscated two caches of weapons from an Iranian terrorist group that was meant for Yemeni insurgents. Here, two U.S. ships are joined by a German vessel in the Arabian Sea during a replenishment at sea. Smith Collection/Getty

Beyond the IRGC, the State Department has said that Iran has supported a number of Iraqi terrorist groups, many of whom provided direct support to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Additionally, the nation has provided material support to Yemeni Houthi soldiers, where the seized weapons were headed. "Iran has provided weapons, support, and training to the Houthi militants, who have engaged in terrorist attacks against regional targets," the State Department said.

However, the seizure of the weapons was not the only victory that the U.S. Navy had, as a similar operation confiscated approximately 1.1 million petroleum barrels from four "foreign-flagged tankers" that were bound for Venezuela.

The oil was sold by the government for over $26 million, and the proceeds of that sale will be put towards a fund for victims of terrorism, the DOJ added.

"The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DOJ. "The Department of Justice will continue to use all available tools to combat the threats posed by terrorist organizations and all those who seek to harm the United States and its allies."

In addition to the DOJ and State Department, assistance was provided in the counterintelligence field by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

"The combined efforts of the FBI and our partners to seize missiles and over a million barrels of petroleum demonstrate our commitment to defend against foreign terrorist organizations and enforce U.S. sanctions," said Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI.

"The government of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism has left innocent victims in its wake and its attempts to support regimes dangerous to the United States and our allies will be met with the full force of the law. The FBI has a continued resolve to hold the government of Iran accountable for its illegal actions."

The State Department told Newsweek that the Biden administration was committed to countering the threat of Iranian terrorist groups, and would "continue to address any effort at sanctions evasion."

Update 12/08/2021, 4:15 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the State Department.