WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Navy allowed an Iranian-leased ship loaded with arms to continue to Syria.
The relevant United Nations resolutions would not allow its seizure, the U.S. military chief said.
Reporters at a news conference Tuesday asked Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, about the boarding last week of a ship in the Red Sea leased by Iran and reportedly carrying Katyusha rockets.
"It was a Cypriot-flagged ship that was boarded by a U.S. Navy boarding team after requesting permission from the master and receiving permission to go aboard, to inspect for weapons which were considered to go against the U.N. Security Council resolution which banned these kinds of weapons from being shipped from Iran, which is where they came from, to Syria, which is where we believe they’re headed and in fact will probably get there in the next day or so," Mullen said.
The U.S. Navy troops ordered the ship to dock in Egypt for inspection. The ship’s captain refused to comply.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, bans the delivery of weapons to the Lebanese terrorist group, but is vague on how the ban should be enforced. The bulk of the weapons are smuggled across Syria’s border with Lebanon, with Syria’s tacit approval.
"The United States did as much as we could do legally," Mullen said. "There are authorities, limitations in complying with this particular U.N. resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of that and we couldn’t do anything else. So we were not authorized to seize the weapons or do anything like that.
"What it does speak to in my view is the need to have stronger resolutions particularly in a case like this, where Iran has clearly violated a U.N. Security Council resolution, not unlike they have in the past. And we think those weapons are headed to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome."