According to The New York Times, Photographs recently released by the Australian government show that light anti-armor weapons seized from a smuggling vessel near Yemen’s coast appear to have been manufactured in Iran, further suggesting that Tehran has had a hand in a high-seas gunrunning operation to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The weapons, a selection of at least nine rocket-propelled grenade launchers, were among thousands of weapons seized by an Australian warship, the Darwin, in February from an Iranian dhow that was sailing under the name Samer. The hidden cargo on the Samer included 81 launchers, 1,968 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 49 PK machine guns, 41 spare machine-gun barrels and 20 60-millimeter mortar tubes.
Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping the Houthi rebels in the war in Yemen. The United States and other Western governments have provided vast quantities of weapons, and other forms of military support, to the embattled government and its allies in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, contributing to violence that the United Nations said last year had caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties.
For years, Iran has been under a series of international sanctions prohibiting it from exporting arms. The United States has frequently claimed that Tehran has violated the sanctions in support of proxy forces in many conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories.
The Samer episode was one of four interdictions of Iranian dhows from September 2015 through March 2016 that yielded, in total, more than 80 antitank guided missiles and 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns and almost 300 RPG launchers, according to data provided by the United States Navy.