It's been an interestingly under-reported week for the shadow war between Iran and well, pretty much every Western nation. First, Bulgaria is set to place the blame on Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah for last year's bus bombing against Israeli tourists. Of more interest to maritime-inclined audiences,
on 23 January, Yemen (with a little help from 5th FLEET) intercepted and boarded an Iranian dhow which according to SECDEF was smuggling a treasure trove of weapons - including modern manpads - likely to northern Yemen's Houthi rebels. The Huthis are Shia co-religionists who have waged at various times a hot and cold insurgency against Yemen's Sunni government. The Houthis are a small island of Shia on the mostly-Sunni Arabian Peninsula so unsurprisingly, the Saudis intervened in 2009 when the conflict began to get out of hand.
The video above shows some of the weapons from the interdicted vessel, which according to Yemeni authorities include:
"1) 199 explosive packages used for IEDs, in addition to electronic circuits, wires, transmitters and 12,495 12.7mm bullets for DSHK heavy machine gun.
2) Automatic rifle suppressors "silencers" effective for ranges less than 150 meters and 2,660 Kilograms of RDX explosives.
3) G9 artillery range finder and optics for land-sea targets with a 40 KM range and 7x military binoculars.
4) 122-mm Grad-type Katyusha rockets and Strela 1\2, Misagh-2 surface to air missile (SAM) and RBG 7 rockets.
5) 2,786 C4 packages (16,606 strips of explosives) and remote "bomb triggers" devices and 124,080 bullets 7.62mm.
6) PN-14K Night vision optic sights and laser range finders and other Iranian made goggles."
Iran uses pretty much whatever methods it can to smuggle arms to surrogates to fight its proxy wars, but the sea has historically been a favorite path. Despite the ongoing international counter-piracy presence in the Indian Ocean, the maritime rat lines between Iran and the Red Sea/Med are largely intact, and successful interceptions like the above operation require a concerted, multi-lateral effort.
With Syria falling apart, Iran's ruling Mullahs have very few remaining friends in the world. Other than the usual third party suppliers (China, Russia, DPRK) that will hawk their advanced weapons systems willy nilly to whomever is willing to pay - including Iran's surrogates - there is little support for this increasingly desperate regime. It is only a matter of time (admittedly, it could be a long time) until the Iranian people are able to undo the raw deal they've had from their leadership since 1979.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.