DUBAI (United Arab Emirates) -- In the midst of tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, and Tehran's arming Yemen's Houthi rebels, the U.S. Navy's Mideast-based 5th Fleet began to offer reward information for sailors who could intercept illicit shipments.
Although we won't mention Iran directly, the 5th Fleet's decision not to pay cash or other goods in exchange for intelligence in the Persian Gulf or other strategic waterways could increase pressure on the Houthis to supply weapons. Yemen is still in limbo and there is no cease-fire.
Already, the Houthis are threatening a new allied taskforce organized by the 5th Fleet, Red Sea. However, there has been no attack on the Navy by Iranian-backed forces in the time since.
The 5th Fleet claims it and its partners have seized $500 million worth of drugs in 2021, more than in the previous four years. In the same time, the 5th Fleet intercepted 9,000 arms, three times as many as those seized in 2020.
Cmdr. The Associated Press was informed by Timothy Hawkins (a spokesperson for the 5th Fleet). "Definitely, we have seen in recent years skyrocketing success with seizing illegal narcotics as well as illicit weapons. This is another step in our efforts to improve regional maritime security.
The 5th Fleet's initiative will launch Tuesday via the Department of Defense Rewards Program. This program saw troops offering cash and goods in exchange for tips on battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere following the September 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaida. The 5th Fleet has decided to make use of the program to patrol the Middle East's waterways, since ground fighting in the region has been largely stopped.
Hawkins stated that operators who speak Farsi, English, and Arabic would be on the hotline. The Navy would also accept tips online in Dari or Pashto. Hawkins stated that payouts could reach $100,000 or more for tips that include information about planned attacks on Americans.
It is not clear if the 5th Fleet's increase in seizures corresponds to a return of shipping following the coronavirus pandemic, or an increase in illicit shipments overall. Stateless dhows are traditional wooden sailing boats used by traffickers in the Mideast to transport drugs or weapons.
Yemen appears to be the most popular destination for weapons. In September 2014, the Houthis took Sanaa, Yemen's capital. They also exiled the internationally recognized government. In March 2015, a coalition of Saudi-led forces, armed with U.S. intelligence and weaponry entered the war against Yemen's exiled government. The Arab world's most poorest country has been on the verge of starvation for years due to inconclusive fighting. The truce that was established around Ramadan, the holy Muslim month, appears to be still in place.
Iran has been transferring weapons to the Houthis for years, despite a United Nations Security Council arms embargo. Although Iran denies arming Houthis, experts from independent nations, Western nations, and U.N. specialists have traced parts back to Iran.
Hawkins answered a question about whether additional seizures might increase tensions between Iran and the United States. He listed the drugs and weapons that the Navy would like to intercept as part of the program.
The commander stated, "That's what they're after." "This is not in the interests of regional stability or security."
The mission of Iran to the United Nations didn't respond to a request to comment. The U.S. Navy continues to encounter Iran in tension at the Strait of Hormuz. This narrow mouth of Persian Gulf, through which half of all oil trades, is where the U.S. Navy has been having tense encounters with Iran.
This rewards program is the latest initiative of 5th Fleet Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who launched a drone task force last January amid tensions with Iran.
Cooper's Red Sea task force has been criticized by the Houthis. The Houthis have repeatedly denied that the rebel group was armed by Iran and did not respond when asked about the Navy program.
Ali al-Qahom (a Houthi official) tweeted last week that the rebels were monitoring increased U.S. activities in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf waters.