White House Looks on Bright Side of Iran Arms Smuggling
The White House said today that interdiction of an Iranian vessel shipping arms to Yemen showed that they're not ignoring Iran aggression after implementation of the P5+1 nuclear deal.
According to the U.S. Navy, the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Sirocco first spotted a dhow in the Persian Gulf that was packed with weapons. With the help of the guided missile destroyer USS Gravely, American forces seized cargo including 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21 .50 caliber machine guns.
The U.S. 5th Fleet said it was the third time since late February that ships originating in Iran were caught smuggling weapons across the water with Houthi rebels being the "likely" recipient.
On Feb. 27, the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin intercepted a dhow with nearly 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes.
On March 20, the French Navy destroyer FS Provence seized nearly 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 64 Dragunov sniper rifles, nine anti-tank missiles and "other associated equipment."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked at the daily briefing if this was "an example of the Iranians following the letter of the agreement, but not necessarily the spirit of it" or "a violation."
"Well, I think one thing that this illustrates is the commitment on the part of the United States to countering Iran's destabilizing activities in the region," Earnest replied.
"We obviously work with a whole host of other countries in that effort. And one of the things that President Obama will discuss at the G.C. Summit in Saudi Arabia next month -- or I guess it's later this month, now -- will be ramping up our efforts to -- to counter Iran's destabilizing activities in the region. And one example of their destabilizing activities is their ongoing materiel support for Houthi rebels in Yemen."
Earnest added that the administration is "obviously... concerned about this development, because offering up support to the rebels in Yemen is a -- is something that is not at all consistent with U.N. Security Council resolutions."
"And I'm confident that the United States and our other partners on the Security Council will take a close look at this incident, consider the available evidence," he said. "And if and when it's appropriate, raise this for other members of the Security Council."
Pressed on whether Iran should face consequences for their latest "destabilizing behavior," Earnest replied, "I think at this point, it's too early to say exactly what we would suggest."
"But again, I think this is a clear illustration that the United States is quite serious about working with other countries in the region to counter Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East," he added.
At the State Department today, spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the administration's "sort of weaselly language" on Iran's violations in regards to its ballistic missile tests -- saying that the actions are "inconsistent with" the rules but not directly calling the tests a violation.