LARGEST BUST TO DATE: US Navy seizes Iranian missiles, oil

The US Navy seized a large cache of weapons intended for Houthi rebels, and $26 million worth of oil in separate incidences in the Arabian Sea. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

The U.S. Justice Department has announced its largest ever forfeiture of Iranian arms and oil, amounting to some 171 surface-to-air missiles, eight anti-tank missiles, and 1.1 million barrels of petroleum products.

Following court orders authorizing the forfeiture, the oil was sold for more than $26 million, of which at least part will go to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

The assets were seized in a number of separate incidences.

The weapons were confiscated by the U.S. Navy from two flagless vessels in the Arabian Sea in November 2019 and February 2020, according to a statement by the Justice Department.

Included in the cache were 171 guided anti-tank missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, land attack cruise missile components, anti-ship cruise missile components, thermal weapons optics and other components for missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. It is believed they were intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The petroleum products were seized from four flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea en-route to Venezuela.

Following the seizures and an investigation involving various government branches and the FBI, applications were made in the District of Colombia seeking forfeiture of the caches. In the case of the weapons haul, the court heard and agreed that the arms shipments belonged to the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and were part of an IRGC trafficking network.

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A separate case was filed, also in the District of Colombia, in which the court heard and agreed that the sale of the oil to Venezuela benefitted the IRGC, which was identified as a terrorist organization under the Trump administration.

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,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to use all available tools to combat the threats posed by terrorist organizations and all those who seek to harm the United States and its allies.”

“This case is a success because of the hard work and dedication of a joint agency team including agents, analysts and prosecutors who, by securing illegal petroleum, have helped curtail Iran’s campaign of violence and unrest throughout the Middle East,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office.

The announcement comes as Iran and the U.S. re-engage in talks through third parties in Vienna designed to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The Biden Administration hopes to halt Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, while Iran has said it intends to negotiate the removal of sanctions.