A British Royal Navy vessel has seized a sophisticated shipment of Iranian missiles in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year, officials say, pointing to the interdiction as proof of Tehran’s support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the embattled country.
The British government statement is striking in that it provided some of the strongest findings to date that Tehran is arming the Houthis against the Saudi-led military coalition with advanced weapons smuggled through the Persian Gulf.
The UK Embassy in the United Arab Emirates described the seizure of surface-to-air-missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles as “the first time a British naval warship has interdicted a vessel carrying such sophisticated weapons from Iran.”
“The UK will continue to work in support of an enduring peace in Yemen and is committed to international maritime security so that commercial shipping can transit safely without threat of disruption,” says James Heappey, minister for the Armed Forces.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations does not respond to a request for comment.
The announcement signals an escalation as Western officials have in the past shied away from public statements that definitively blame Iran for arming Yemen’s Houthis with military contraband. The route of the smuggled shipments through the Arabian Sea or Gulf of Aden, however, has strongly suggested their destination.