British warship seizes ‘advanced Iranian missiles’ bound for Yemen

Last Thursday, in a preview of the British government’s support for the barbaric House of Saud, the Royal Navy reported that one of its warships had seized Iranian weapons, including surface-to-air missiles and missile engines. cruising, from smugglers in the world waters south of Iran in January and February.

The United States Navy destroyer USS Gridley supported the frigate HMS Montrose during the February operation.

HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, in 2005

A Navy spokesman said “the seized packages were returned to the UK for engineering analysis which revealed that the cargo contained several rocket motors for the 351 Land Attack Cruise Missile produced by the Navy. Iran and a batch of 358 surface-to-air missiles”. Although he did not indicate the intended destination of the missiles, he said the 351 cruise missile, with a range of 1,000 km, is often used by the Houthi group in Yemen to target Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This was hailed as “evidence” of Iran’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen who the UN has labeled “terrorists”. The Houthis are battling a Saudi-led coalition after forcing Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in 2014 and seizing control of the country’s north. The Houthis and Iran have long denied Tehran’s support for the Houthis during the seven-year war.

The world’s media barely reported this act of piracy on the high seas.

The Royal Navy operations followed the US Navy’s seizure last December in the Arabian Sea of ​​a large cache of assault rifles and ammunition smuggled from an Iranian fishing vessel that was likely bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen. A U.S. Navy statement said it confiscated 8,700 illicit weapons in 2021 from the 2.5 million square mile area of ​​its 5th Fleet patrols, including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, from strategic importance.

The US Navy said the boat was sailing along a route “historically used for illegal arms trafficking to the Houthis in Yemen”. He added: “The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the Houthis violates UN Security Council resolutions and US sanctions.”

The Biden administration lifted the terrorist designation imposed on the Houthis in the final days of the Trump administration in 2021. But in February it imposed new sanctions on members of a network it said worked with an offshoot. of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) smuggling. oil and other raw materials in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to help finance the Houthis.

A few days later, the UN Security Council extended its arms embargo against some Houthi leaders to the whole group after claiming responsibility for several drone and missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia in January. The British-drafted resolution called on all countries “to redouble their efforts to combat the smuggling of arms and components by land and sea, in order to ensure the implementation of the targeted arms embargo “.

This was intended to help the medieval allies of the United States and United Kingdom, who reject even the most basic standards of bourgeois democracy and ban all forms of opposition and dissent as they struggle to limit wages and slave working conditions, mass poverty and bubbling discontent. .

The resolution ignored the countless crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition against impoverished southern neighbor Yemen during the seven-year war. These have deliberately targeted the civilian population, with numerous horrific attacks on civilian infrastructure and buildings – crimes within the meaning of the Fourth Geneva Convention – and inflicting mass starvation.

These crimes followed the launch of Saudi Arabia’s air, land and sea assault on Yemen in March 2015, aided by its fellow despots in the region and covertly by the United States and Britain, after the overthrow of the Hadi government. Saudi Arabia hoped to restore its puppet to power and maintain the rule of Gulf despots over the entire peninsula amid seething social tensions.

Since then, Yemen has fragmented amid the fighting of many competing militias, whose loyalties have changed several times. In April, after a series of attacks on oil facilities in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia earlier in the year claimed by the Houthis, and the resignation of Hadi, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to a ceasefire that is still turbulent.

The Saudi-led war has killed nearly 400,000 people directly and indirectly from hunger and disease and forced more than 4.2 million people to flee their homes. It destroyed Yemen’s economy, causing the currency to collapse and runaway inflation. The pandemic and the impact of anti-Russian sanctions in a country almost entirely dependent on imported food has exacerbated what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nearly 19 million of Yemen’s 30 million people are acutely food insecure, with 7.3 million facing levels of hunger of ’emergency. OCHA expects up to 161,000 people to face starvation this year. When its $2 billion appeal in 2022 raised a quarter of the funds needed, largely thanks to cuts in humanitarian aid by the UK and US, the World Food Program warned it would be “forced” to cut aid to Yemen and “to steal from the hungry to feed the hungry.

The UK has supplied fighter jets, bombs and missiles to the Saudi-led coalition for use in Yemen worth more than £6.8billion, although actual sales much higher, under its open license system. The weapons were used in the coalition’s targeting of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, in breach of the UK’s own rules which state that sales should not be allowed where there is a ‘clear risk’ that a weapon “could” be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Right.

The government has continued to sell weapons to Riyadh despite a 2019 court ruling requiring it to stop issuing export licenses for weapons that could be used in the war in Yemen, saying any violation of international humanitarian law were “isolated incidents”. Since then it has authorized an additional £1.6billion in arms sales, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which is challenging the government’s policy in the High Court.

In September 2020, a UN panel of experts concluded that Saudi-led forces were responsible for IHL violations and concluded that those who armed the perpetrators, including the UK, could ” aiding and assisting” war crimes. The British government has refused to release its database supposedly recording civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes in Yemen.

The Royal Navy’s belated release of news of its seizures of Iranian-made weapons comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, where he will meet Saudi de facto Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – in a reversal of his election campaign pledge to make the kingdom a “pariah” after Salman’s order to assassinate dissident Jamaal Khashoggi in 2018.

Biden’s talks with Middle Eastern leaders in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah later this week aim to cement an anti-Iranian alliance between Israel and the United States’ Arab allies, even if Israel has no official relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It seeks to counter China’s economic presence and political influence in the energy-rich region as part of its broader preparations for war with Russia and China, with which Tehran has increasingly forged ties. narrow.

Last year, the United States absorbed Israel into Centcom, one of the Ministry of Defense’s 11 combatant commands, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco established full diplomatic relations with them. Israel. Centcom covers the Middle East, Egypt, the Horn of Africa, Central Asia and parts of South Asia and is home to the air base and forward operating headquarters in al-Udeid, Qatar.

The timing of the announcement suggests that the crumbling Johnson government is eager to demonstrate its loyalty to the United States’ war campaign. It comes as Washington seeks to reassure its Gulf clients of continued support after years of strained relations and to delegate its policing of the region to its most militarily advanced allies, the United Kingdom and Israel, as he refocuses attention on the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s growing economic and political influence. Washington is making it increasingly difficult for Tehran to accept its terms for resuming the 2015 nuclear deals after the Trump administration unilaterally abrogated the accord in 2017 and reimposed sanctions the following year.

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