Iranian Weapons Smuggling Is Accelerating Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

The potential for a famine of significant proportions is building in Yemen. Efforts to constrain Houthi activities and Iranian weapons smuggling in the Red Sea are acting as a blockade. They slow the flow of food, medicine, and fuel into Yemen, and deter some shippers from sending their vessels into Yemeni ports. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and many experts warn that this may ultimately cut off what food is currently trickling in, triggering it into famine.

A reenergized and more targeted maritime interdiction operation (MIO) facilitated by the United States through intelligence sharing, training, and coordination could be used to disrupt Iranian weapons smuggling and increase the flow of food, medicine, and fuel into Yemen. The risk of famine, and the accelerating cholera outbreak, which has been reported to have exceeded 300,000 suspected cases, are urgent goals.

A naval force monitors access to waterways and interdicts specific ships during MIOs, and can insure the free flow of legitimate maritime commerce. When executing an MIO, naval forces build a network of surveillance, intelligence, and interdiction forces to divert, disrupt, delay, or seize contraband items. Interdiction operations force a smuggling network to change, and communicate those changes, and make it more vulnerable to further disruption.

A strengthened MIO can improve security in the Red Sea without risking U.S. troops, and nations hesitant to intervene directly may be willing to enforce UN Security Council resolutions through MIO. As well, changing what is perceived to be a blockade into an interdiction operation and accelerating the flow of food may reduce the conflict, and increase legitimacy of the coalition’s naval effort. Intelligence gained through interception of illegal arms shipments may unveil Iran’s link to such arms shipments, giving the international community greater leverage to deal with the Islamic Republic.

According to the Washington Institute, “Reenergized and more-targeted maritime interdiction operations could reduce Iranian support for the Houthis while helping respond to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.”

Existing Security Council resolutions offer a viable legal framework that provides a mechanism for searching most vessels in international waters.

Increased U.S. support could advance national interests in several ways.

1. U.S. involvement could identify Iranian efforts to deliver weapons and other military assistance

2. A U.S. presence could help deter smuggling ships from entering the area.

3. American involvement could give legitimate shippers reassurance that delivering food and medicine into these ports will not be disrupted.

4. By focusing coalition efforts on a narrower target, U.S. assistance could accelerate the delivery of shipments

Providing this supports has risks for the United States, but appears worthy of consideration. It might reduce maritime threats in the Red Sea and decrease shipping disruptions between the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz. Strengthening the coalition’s efforts could help stop the flow of Iranian weapons and help reduce the conflict, while increasing the flow of food, medicine, and fuel to a desperate Yemeni population.

Source » ncr-iran

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