The U.S. military says Iran is continuing to send “advanced weapons” to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as part of their fight against the Saudi-backed government in the war-torn nation.
The comments on February 19 came just more than a week after the U.S. Navy seized advanced weapons and weapon components believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture” intended for the rebels in Yemen.
It was the second such seizure of dhow vessels that were sailing without a flag following a previous such incident on November 25.
Iran denies supplying the mainly Shi’ite Houthi rebels with arms, despite evidence displayed by U.S. and Saudi officials that it does.
"The [latest] seizure is consistent with a historical pattern of Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Houthis in Yemen," Captain Bill Urban of U.S. Central Command -- which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East -- told a briefing at the Pentagon.
Urban said Washington believes that Iran has been providing weapons to the Houthi rebels for the last five years, which he said has helped prolong the deadly conflict.
He displayed photos of the seized weapons and said they came from Iran and were intended for the Houthis.
He said the USS Normandy on February 9 found 150 "Dhelavieh," Iranian-made copies of the Russian Kornet antitank guided missile and three Iranian-designed and manufactured surface-to-air missiles.
The November seizures included the same type of missiles ,along with a large number of spare parts for cruise missiles, he added.
Urban said U.S. experts had "high confidence" the weapons "were being illicitly smuggled to the Houthis in Yemen in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions."
Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, has been involved in a protracted war with Houthi forces since 2014.
The rebels have seized much of the nation’s northwest and its capital, Sana, in the war that has killed more than 10,000 people and created a humanitarian nightmare in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Many people have called the fight a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite-led Iran.