Congress legislators are accusing the Iranian government of standing behind the stateless vessel seized by the US Navy last week for moving a massive cache of illicit weapons across the northern Arabian Sea.
Likely bound for the Iran-aligned Houthi militia in Yemen, the flagless vessel is suspected of having sailed in violation of the international ban on exporting arms to the war-torn country.
“Iran continues to send deadly weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, which is a blatant violation of the UN Arms Embargo,” tweeted Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, stressing that the cleric-led regime “must stop its illegal and dangerous activities.”
Tenney also blamed Iran for actively exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
Given Iran’s history of arming Houthi militias and other proxies in the region, the vessel’s seizure must not be singled out as a unique event.
“That the US Navy seized another shipment of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen should come as no surprise. Iran has sought to fuel civil war in Yemen since at least 2013,” said US Senator for Arkansas Tom Cotton in a tweet on Sunday.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut chose not to directly tie Iran to the arms shipment but warned against Tehran’s influence growing under the protracted conflict.
“The longer this war goes on, the closer the Iranians and the Houthis get and the greater a role Iran plays in the future of Yemen,” he said, adding that it was “time for a ceasefire.”
For its part, Yemen’s internationally recognized government condemned Iran for standing behind the shipment, accusing it of always seeking to erode peace efforts and promoting Houthi military escalation.
“The Iranian regime must stop aiding and abetting Houthis with arms supplies,” the Yemeni embassy in Washington tweeted, stressing that no weapons, whether foreign-made or local, must be delivered to the coup militias.
It called for applying “maximum pressure” to get Houthis to come around and agree to a ceasefire and engage in the peace process.
“Time has come for conflict to end and peace to prevail,” the embassy said, centering its hopes around the Biden administration recently pressing to end hostilities and achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace settlement in Yemen.
On the downside, the embassy described the Houthi determination to intensify military offensives across several battlefronts as “regrettable.”
“Yemen cannot wait, and the Houthis should not be given more wages and room to expand this war,” it noted, emphasizing the need for a nationwide ceasefire until peace is achieved.
Iran denied any connection to the seized boat and claimed it was only “diplomatically” involved in Yemen.
“We are not aware of the incident, and therefore we cannot comment,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference in Tehran on Monday.
“We have repeatedly emphasized that military options will not solve the crisis in Yemen,” he told reporters.
Back in 2014, the UN Security Council approved resolution 2140, which imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis. It urged UNSC member states to take all measures necessary to prevent direct and indirect weapons sale, supply and delivery to the Iran-backed militias.