WASHINGTON — More than one million Iranian rounds of munitions that were seized by the U.S. military late last year have been sent to Ukraine to assist the effort repel Russia’s invasion, Central Command said.
The seizure occurred as Iran was sending weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. In July, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to forfeit thousands of rifles, hundreds of machine guns and rocket launchers and around 700,000 rounds of ammunition that the U.S. intercepted from Iran on the same path. The motion allowed the U.S. to take control of the munitions now being sent to Ukraine, which had previously been stored in U.S. facilities around the Middle East.
The 1.1 million 7.62 mm rounds being sent to the Ukrainian military were seized by “Central Command naval forces from the transiting stateless dhow MARWAN” in December, it said. According to a Department of Defense fact sheet, the U.S. has sent Ukraine “more than 300,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades” to date.
The transfer, which the U.S. had sought for months, comes as the Biden administration faces increasing friction on its efforts to support Ukraine.
Over the weekend, Congress passed a six-week continuing resolution without further aid to the country that the White House had sought. The Democratic-controlled Senate initially planned to include some $6 billion in such aid in its version of the CR. The bill never reached a vote, lest a shutdown arrive before a deal could be reached with the majority-Republican House.
Without more aid appropriated — and it will be that much harder to pass more without a speaker of the House — the Pentagon has limited options to support Ukraine. Department of Defense spokespeople say the U.S. has $5.4 billion left to draw down its stocks for Ukraine. But only $1.6 billion is left to replenish such stocks, meaning there’s an almost $4 billion gap in what the Pentagon can send to Ukraine and what it can resupply.
“We have enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs for just a little bit longer but we need Congress to act,” said Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh at a briefing.
Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.