The United States has delivered approximately 1.1 million confiscated bullets of Iranian origin to Ukraine. The Iranian bullets were initially seized from a ship en route to Yemen.

The ammunition was intercepted by US naval forces on 9 December 2022. Yemen has ongoing civil conflict leading to an arms embargo. The US Central Command (Centcom) in the Middle East orchestrated the transfer of these Iranian rounds to Ukraine.

The US government formally took ownership of the seized bullets in July 2023 through the civil forfeiture process. The seizure was prompted by suspicions of criminal activity on the part of the ship’s owner. The claim was directed against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian armed forces responsible for safeguarding the country’s government.

This ammunition transfer comes when concerns have arisen among Ukraine’s Western allies regarding the country’s ammunition consumption surpassing its production capacity. The move can be considered a strategic effort to support Ukraine’s defence capabilities.

Centcom emphasised the United States’ commitment to working with its allies and partners to counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region through lawful means. Iran is known for supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war despite a 2015 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting arms transfers to the Houthi group.

The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa. The internationally recognised government of Yemen, backed by a Saudi-led coalition and countries like the US and the UK, continues to exist in opposition to the Houthi insurgents.

Meanwhile, Iran faced repeated accusations in recent months of supplying arms, including drones, to Russia for use in the conflict in Ukraine.

NATO’s Military Committee Chair Adm Rob Bauer pointed out that the West’s ammunition supply to Ukraine is running low. Decades of underinvestment left NATO countries with ammunition stocks only half-full or even emptier at the outset of the conflict.

UK Defence Minister James Heappey has called on NATO allies to allocate 2 per cent of their national income to defence spending, a target agreed upon by the alliance. However, only 11 of the 31 NATO members are expected to meet this target this year.

The transfer of Iranian ammunition to Ukraine aligns with the Biden administration’s quest to find alternative ways to provide assistance to Ukraine.

However, opposition from certain factions within the Republican Party prevented the House of Representatives from approving additional aid. The situation took a dramatic turn when some of these members voted to unseat House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. This development is expected to further delay any vote on additional aid until a replacement is installed.

Any future Speaker who attempts to bring a vote on the issue to the floor will likely face similar opposition from within the party. The internal political wrangling in the United States adds a layer of uncertainty to Ukraine’s efforts to secure the support it desperately needs.