Mattis addresses Iran’s arms smuggling to Houthis

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis relayed American fears that the Iranian Regime is trafficking weapons through Oman in a meeting with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said on Monday.

These weapons are being smuggled via Oman to the Iran-backed Houthi terror group in Yemen, to avoid the repercussions of being caught supplying these arms in violation of a UN resolution against arming the Houthis, and Mattis is not the first to point this out.

However, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi has denied this.

He said: “There is no truth to this. No weapons have crossed our border and we are ready to clarify any suspicions if they arise.”

Unfortunately, this does not ring true. Oman has a reputation for less than adequate enforcement of imposing restrictions on Iran. Prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran was under international sanctions, but the Omanis still ferried goods across the Strait of Hormuz to them. The Omani authorities knew of this, but didn’t want to harm the local economy.

Now, as trade along the Oman/Yemen border grows, it seems that the Omani authorities are trying and failing to balance border security with trade.

As Reuters reported in 2016, much of Iran’s illicit smuggling to Yemen goes through Oman, because the shipping routes, via Yemen’s western coastline, were often intercepted by US warships and the Saudi-led coalition.

In September 2016, allies of the Yemeni government found shipments destined for the Houthis, which included anti-ship missiles, surface-to-surface short-range missiles, small arms, and explosives, in trucks with Omani license plates.

Officials from the Arab coalition to restore the Yemeni government have long suspected that these weapons are stored at Salalah airport in Oman and in small islands off the coast, before being sent to the Houthis.

Saudi and Yemeni officials also believe that Omani authorities may be helping Iran to smuggle these weapons.

During the meeting, it is believed that Mattis also brought up Iran’s malign involvement in the Yemeni Civil War as a whole.

Nicole Salter wrote on Track Persia: “It will be important for Secretary Mattis to convey US concerns about Iranian weapons travelling through Oman and to pressure Sultan Qaboos to launch a vigorous effort to halt them. Neutrality is acceptable, but not at the expense of illegal arms trafficking. The key now is for Washington and Muscat to work together to monitor the waters near Dhofar and the popular land transit routes. Only when the Houthis stop receiving Iranian weapons will Oman have a chance to facilitate a “peaceful and political solution” to the war in Yemen.”

Source » ncr-iran

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