June 13, 2024

The United States has transferred to Ukraine hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition seized from Iran last year, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

The Monday transfer to the Ukrainian armed forces included 1.1 million 7.62 mm rounds, munitions Washington obtained in July through the Justice Department’s civil forfeiture claims against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to a statement from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

The ammunition — originally seized by CENTCOM naval forces in December as the weapons were being smuggled to the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen — is expected to help ease munitions shortages among Ukrainian forces as they wait for more lethal aid from Western nations.

“The U.S. is committed to working with our allies and partners to counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region by all lawful means including U.S. and U.N. sanctions and through interdictions,” CENTCOM said in the statement. “Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, diplomatic personnel, and citizens in the region, as well as those of our partners.”

CNN first reported on the weapons transfer, noting it came after the Biden administration for months had been pondering how to legally send the weapons because the United Nations requires such seized items be destroyed or stored.

Before the handover to the Ukrainians, the ammunition was stored in CENTCOM facilities across the Middle East.

In addition to the munitions, the Justice Department was seeking the forfeiture of more than 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, about 194 rocket launchers, more than 70 anti-tank guided missiles, and more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition taken from Iran by the U.S. Navy, according to CNN.

The U.S. Navy over the past year has seized thousands of Iranian assault rifles, advanced anti-tank guided missiles, ammunition rounds and fuses and propellants for rockets, taken from vessels used by Tehran to ship weapons to Yemen.

Iran backs Houthi rebels with weapons and other resources as the group continues its years-long civil war with the Saudi Arabia-supported Yemeni government. The U.S. government, meanwhile, had supported Saudi-led offensive efforts in the region but pulled official help in 2021.

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