America Should Supply Ukraine with Captured Iranian Weapons

February 17, 2023 | Jonathan Lord and Andrea Kendall-Taylor
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In the past twelve months alone, the U.S. and its allies have intercepted thousands of rifles, along with anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles, ammunition, and much else, that Tehran was trying to smuggle by sea to its Houthi allies in Yemen. According to a recent report, the Biden administration is considering sending these armaments to Ukraine. Jonathan Lord and Andrea Kendall-Taylor explain why doing so would be sound policy:

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), through its work with European allies and Gulf partners, is well on its way to turning the critical waterways around the Arabian Peninsula into a panopticon, making it increasingly difficult for [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy to operate without detection. [This] success in stymying Iran has left CENTCOM with vast stores of seized weapons. These weapons, once inspected and recorded by the United Nations as evidence of Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolution 2624, are housed in U.S. military facilities across the region.

Instead of allowing these weapons to gather dust, Washington should send them to Ukraine. . . . Beyond filling [Kyiv’s] immediate military necessities, the transfer of these weapons would have other positive knock-on effects. Sending Iran’s weapons to Ukraine for use against Russia could drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran at a moment when their interests are converging. Iran has trained and equipped the Russian military with loitering munitions, which the Russians have unleashed on Kyiv’s civilian infrastructure, in a blatant effort to leave Ukrainians in the dark and cold this winter.

Russia and Iran have colluded to evade sanctions, trade, and resist the West’s attempts to constrain their respective efforts to destabilize Europe and the Middle East. Turning Iran’s weapons back on Russia might drive Moscow to pressure Tehran to stop smuggling weapons to Yemen, particularly as more and more shipments are intercepted.

Iran and Russia . . . have sought to bully their way to greater power and influence through the brutalization of their neighbors. While these two pariah states deserve each other, there’s poetic justice in turning their malign activities back on them. Sending Iran’s weapons to Ukraine advances the mission in ways both tangible and symbolic. Washington should move without delay.

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