October 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Sends Seized Iranian Ammunition to Ukraine

October 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Sends Seized Iranian Ammunition to Ukraine

Latest Developments

U.S. Central Command announced this week that the government transferred Iranian ammunition to Ukraine’s armed forces on October 2. American naval forces seized the more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition in December 2022 that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was smuggling on a stateless dhow to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Iranian shipment constituted a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, passed in 2015, which imposes an arms embargo on the Houthis.

“Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, diplomatic personnel, and citizens in the region, as well as those of our partners,” said Central Command in a statement. “The U.S. is committed to working with our allies and partners to counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region by all lawful means including U.S. and U.N. sanctions and through interdictions.”

Expert Analysis

“Thanks to forward-positioned U.S. military forces in the Middle East, ammunition Tehran intended for terrorism is now being used by Ukrainians defending their homes against an unprovoked Russian invasion supported by Iran. Now that’s putting Iranian ammunition to a good use!” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Sending captured Iranian weapons from the Middle East to Ukraine is a low-cost but high return-on-investment way for Washington to turn the Iranian arms proliferation threat into an opportunity to better support U.S. partners. Over time, sustained interceptions and rerouted arms transfers could also lead to less Iranian weapons proliferation.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Iran Arms the Houthis

By funding, arming, and training the Houthis, Tehran enables attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and establishes strategic depth alongside the Red Sea — one of the world’s most important commercial and military maritime routes. In 2014, soon after the Houthis seized Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, an Iranian member of parliament reportedly bragged that Sanaa would be the fourth Arab capital under Iranian control. In 2016, Houthis fired anti-ship cruise missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mason, while it was operating in international waters near Yemen.

The Russia-Iran Partnership

The U.S. transfer of Iranian arms to Ukraine turns the tables on both Tehran and Moscow, which have doubled down on their defense partnership following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Tehran provides drones to Moscow and helps the Russians localize their production. In March 2023, Iran agreed to purchase 24 advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighters from Russia, significantly upgrading the capabilities of the Islamic Republic’s air force. In 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, Russia and Iran conducted joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman. Russia and Iran are also sharing intelligence and cooperating in a joint effort to push U.S. military forces out of the region.

Moreover, the two authoritarian regimes have pursued deeper economic cooperation, including by working together to evade Western sanctions. In October 2022, the White House accused Moscow of advising the Islamic Republic how to suppress anti-regime protests in Iran.

Russia and Iran Deepen Military Cooperation,” FDD Flash Brief

Russia Plans to Locally Produce 6,000 Iranian Suicide Drones,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Aids Russia’s Imperialist War Against Ukraine,” by John Hardie

Yemen’s Houthis Belong on the Terror List,” by Jonathan Schanzer and Matthew Zweig


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power Russia U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy Ukraine