Political Analysis

Yemen Seeks Investigation of Seized Arms

National Yemen

Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul-Qater Qahtan (left) and senior security officials inspect seized Iranian-made weapons. Ties between Tehran and Sanaa were already strained over charges that Iran was working with separatists in the south and rebels in the north to further destabilize Yemen.

UN sanctions experts are investigating the Yemeni government’s claims that Iran supplied rockets and explosives seized from a ship last month, diplomats said.

The case was raised at a UN Security Council meeting where UN special envoy Jamal Benomar called on the 15-member body to end “acts of obstruction” to the country’s democratic transition.

Iran sanctions experts went to Yemen last week following the seizure of the ship on January 23, officials said.

In a letter to the Security Council obtained by AFP, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said the shipment included “SAM-2 and SAM-3 surface-to-air missiles that had been handed over in Iran to eight Yemeni sailors for transport to Yemen.”

Qirbi asked in the letter for the government to be allowed to “participate” in the UN investigation.

Sanctions experts “will establish the facts on what happened, where the shipment came from, the recipients” and other details, Benomar told reporters after the meeting, without mentioning the accusations against Iran.

A Yemeni security official said in a recent interview that the weapons ship was headed for the Red Sea port of Al-Mukha and that the arms were intended for Shiite Huthi rebels.

The Yemeni coast guard, working with the US Navy, intercepted the ship in the Arabian Sea, according to the authorities.

An Iranian foreign ministry source, quoted by media in Tehran, has denied the country was involved in the shipment.

According to a government statement, the shipment included different kinds of dangerous weapons and explosive devices, some of which are Iranian-made, including: Katyusha rockets M122, Strella surface-to-air heat-seeking missiles, , RBG7 rocket launchers, and artillery cannons capable of striking land and sea targets over 40 kilometers away.

The shipment also included a number of automatic weapon silencers which are often used in assassination attempts, and explosive substances such as RDX, which is capable of producing explosions twenty times as powerful as TNT. The RDX substance had been packed in 133 plastic containers.

Saba News Agency also reported that the shipment contained C4 plastic explosives, remote-controlled devices which are used to trigger explosive devices from a distance, and machine gun ammunition.

Sources from the Supreme Military Committee have stated that if the ship hadn’t been intercepted, the weapons cargo would have been secretly unloaded off the Yemeni coastline.