The Navy and partner nations operating in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea seized almost $200 million worth of illegal drugs in 2021 — more than the total value of narcotics interdicted there in the previous four years combined.
The maritime drug raids were part of what U.S. Central Command officials called “record amounts of illicit cargo” confiscated at sea last year, including almost 9,000 weapons ranging from sniper rifles to grenade launchers.
In May, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey nabbed dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles and hundreds of Russian PKM machine guns from a stateless vessel transiting the North Arabian Sea.
“We have enhanced our presence and vigilance across regional waters,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the 5th Fleet, said in a statement released this week. “This reflects our continued commitment to confront destabilizing activities that disrupt the rules-based international order which underlies maritime security in the Middle East.”
In December, 5th Fleet warships stopped a stateless fishing vessel that had originated in Iran and was carrying 1,400 AK-47 rifles. The ship was on a route historically used to traffic weapons illegally to the Houthis in Yemen.
The direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and U.S. sanctions, Navy officials said.