The US government has found a legal loophole to send confiscated Iranian weapons and ammunition to Ukraine as a way to help alleviate the critical shortages facing the Ukrainian military. According to CNN, unnamed US officials reported that Washington has figured out a way to send the confiscated weapons to Kiev in an effort to support Ukraine as it awaits more funds and equipment from the US and its allies.
The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) recently delivered one million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine, which is expected to provide some relief to the Ukrainian military. In a press release, CENTCOM announced that the transfer of the ammunition to Ukraine was finalized two days prior and explained that the US government obtained ownership of these munitions through the Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture claims against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Civil asset forfeiture, the practice that allowed the US government to seize the Iranian weapons suspected of being used in criminal activity, has long been criticized as de facto theft. However, in this case, the seized weapons are being repurposed to support Ukraine’s military efforts.
The ammunition was originally on its way from Iran to the Houthi militia in Yemen, in violation of the UN arms embargo, when it was seized by the US Navy on December 9, 2022. Additional weapons and ammunition were seized by American and French ships in subsequent weeks.
The idea of sending the seized weapons to Ukraine was proposed by the think-tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) earlier this year as a symbolic reprisal for Iran’s alleged sale of drones to Russia. However, it took several months for the US government to find a legal pretext to transfer the weapons to Ukraine.
The US Department of Justice stated in July that it intended to claim over 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, approximately 194 rocket launchers, over 70 anti-tank guided missiles, and over 700,000 rounds of ammunition that were intended for the Houthis by the IRGC.
This announcement comes at a time of uncertainty regarding further US funding for Ukraine’s war efforts. While a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on September 30 ensured that the US government remained open, it did not include additional funding for Ukraine. There are ongoing debates about whether the US Congress will pass another Ukraine aid bill and when it will happen, despite President Joe Biden’s insistence on its importance.
By repurposing the confiscated Iranian weapons and ammunition, the US hopes to provide much-needed support to the Ukrainian military while they await additional funding and equipment from the US and its allies. The transfer of the one million rounds of ammunition is seen as a step towards addressing the critical shortages faced by the Ukrainian military. The US government’s ability to legally redistribute the seized weapons showcases its commitment to assisting Ukraine’s military efforts in a challenging geopolitical landscape.