The US is considering sending Ukraine thousands of seized weapons and more than a million rounds of ammunition that were originally intended for the Iran-backed Houthi militia, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday citing US and European officials.
According to the report, US officials are looking at sending Ukraine more than 5,000 assault rifles, 1.6 million rounds of small arms ammunition, a small number of antitank missiles, and more than 7,000 proximity fuses seized in recent months off the Yemen coast from smugglers suspected of working for Iran.
The challenge for the Biden administration, the report noted, is finding a legal justification for transferring the seized weapons to Ukraine as the UN arms embargo requires the US and its allies to destroy, store, or dispose of them.
Biden administration lawyers are reportedly exploring whether there is any legal loophole that would permit the transfer.
The rifles and ammunition have been seized in recent months by the US and France as part of a global effort focused mainly on preventing Iran from smuggling weapons into Yemen, the report said.
“It’s a message to take weapons meant to arm Iran’s proxies and flip them to achieve our priorities in Ukraine, where Iran is providing arms to Russia,” the WSJ quoted one US official as saying.
The US and its allies have accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with missiles, drones and other weapons used in attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemeni forces trying to defeat the Iran-backed militants.
Iran openly supports the Houthis politically, but denies any weapon transfers in violation of UN resolutions.