As Washington looks for new ways to fund the war in Ukraine, the U.S. Army has begun assessing the possibility of sending thousands of Iranian weapons and more than a million rounds of ammunition to Kyiv.
According to anonymous U.S. and European officials, the weapons and ammo to be turned over to Ukraine would include 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, which were seized recently in the Gulf of Oman while allegedly being shipped to Yemen.
While the weapons and ammunition pale in comparison to what Western allies have sent to Kyiv over the past year, Pentagon officials see the handover of the small weapons cache as a symbolic punishment for Iran, which has been supplying drones to Russia and has recently entered into an agreement with Moscow to build a manufacturing site for Iranian drones inside Russian territory. Both Iran and Russia have denied that Tehran has been supplying Moscow with drones.
According to the U.S. official, “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.”
There are still legal hurdles to clear before the Biden administration can send the weapons to Ukraine. According to the UN arms embargo on Iran, Western countries are required to destroy, store, or get rid of any seized weapons.
President Joe Biden could possibly overcome the legal challenges by creating an executive order or by working with Congress to all the U.S. to seize weapons under the civil forfeiture authorities and then pass them along to Kyiv.
Regarding the U.S. looking for ways to send the seized Iranian weapons and ammo to Ukraine, Yemen’s Deputy Information Minster told the Wall Street Journal, “What change can this make to war?”
NATO Secretary General told NATO defense ministers during a meeting in Brussels on Monday that “The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production.” Ukraine’s Western allies recently requested Latin American nations to also donate some of their weapon stocks to Kyiv – a request which was immediately denied.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro responded to the request last month, saying, “We are not with either side. We are for peace.” Meanwhile, Brazilian leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told Biden during a meeting that “Brazil is a country of peace. At this moment, we need to find those who want peace, a word that has so far been used very little.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said of the idea, “I don’t think sending weapons to prolong a conflict has support in Latin America.”
The Argentinian government gave a similar sentiment when a defense ministry spokesperson said that the country “will not cooperate with the war.”
While the U.S. and its Western allies continue to look for money and weapons to send to Ukraine, Moscow has issued repeated warnings that should Western countries continue to provide weapons and support to Kyiv, they risk becoming directly involved in the conflict.