By Ellie Kaufman, CNN
The US Navy seized hundreds of Iranian missiles and 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products from vessels in the Arabian Sea in what became the US government’s “largest-ever forfeiture of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” according to a release from the Justice Department.
The weapons, the department said in the Tuesday release, were seized by the US during “routine maritime security operations.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps organized the shipments of weapons, which were bound for Houthi militias in Yemen, the Justice Department said. The petroleum was taken from “four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela,” according to the release.
US Navy Central Command seized the weapons from two “flagless vessels” in the Arabian Sea on two occasions: November 25, 2019, and February 9, 2020.
“These successful forfeiture actions are a product of the U.S. government’s coordinated efforts to enforce U.S. sanctions against the IRGC and the Iranian regime,” the release stated.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division added that “the actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
The weapons included “171 guided anti-tank missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, land attack cruise missile components, anti-ship cruise missile components, thermal weapon optics and other components for missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles,” or drones, the release aid. The US obtained three type “358” surface-to-air missiles and 150 “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles in the 2020 weapons seizure.
The Justice Department forfeited the weapons through the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The court upheld the department’s findings, agreeing the weapons were part of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps trafficking network “designed to distribute illicit weapons to the Houthi movement in Yemen,” the release said.
The petroleum products were seized because the US government believed they originated in Iran and their sale would benefit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an Iranian entity sanctioned by the US, the government alleged in a complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 2, 2020.
The court, on October 1, 2021, agreed with the government, finding that the petroleum and its potential sale would benefit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the release said.
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