US may send seized Houthi weapons to Ukraine: Report
In an unprecedented move expected to help Ukrainian forces turn the tide against the Russians, the US military is considering sending Kyiv thousands of seized weapons and over a million rounds of ammunition once intended for the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, quoting US and European officials.
US officials are looking at supplying the war-torn nation with more than 5,000 assault rifles, a small number of antitank missiles, 1.6 million rounds of small arms ammunition, and over 7,000 proximity fuses seized in recent months off the Yemen coast from smugglers potentially working for Iran.
The unusual move could prove immensely useful as America and its allies struggle to meet Ukraine’s growing need for military support as the conflict enters its second year.
Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation met this week in Brussels to discuss new ways to speed up the flow of weapons into Ukraine. “The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, adding the loss in balance is putting “our defence industries under strain”.
As of this week, according to the Pentagon, the US has sent Ukraine over 100 million rounds of small arms ammunition and about 13,000 grenade launchers, guns, and rifles.
Nevertheless, the prime question now is “Can the Biden administration find a legal justification for transferring weapons from one conflict to another?”, as the UN arms embargo makes it mandatory for the US and its allies to destroy, store or dispose of the seized weapons.
According to US officials, Biden administration lawyers are currently looking at whether there is any legal loophole that would permit the transfer of weapons to Ukraine.
The weapons originally bound for Houthi rebels were seized by the US and France as part of a global effort aimed at preventing Iran from smuggling weapons into Yemen, the WSJ report mentioned.
The US and its allies have accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with rifles and ammunition used in attacks on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemeni forces trying to defeat the Iran-backed militants.
Although Iran denies any transfer of weapons in violation of UN resolutions, it openly backs the Houthis politically.