US Senator inquires about alleged transfer of American weapons to al-Qaida and Iran-aligned fighters in Yemen

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter Friday to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting information on the alleged transfer of American weapons to al-Qaida and Iran-aligned fighters.

Warren’s inquiry was prompted by a CNN report that “Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al-Qaida-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen.”

The CNN investigation also alleged that U.S. equipment has fallen “into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels” fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, “exposing some of America’s sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of U.S. troops in other conflict zones.”

Foreign governments receiving weapons and other defense articles from the U.S. are subject to agreements that prohibit the re-transfer of those weapons to third parties without prior authorization, Warren said in her letter.

Among the foreign equipment CNN found to have been re-transferred were Oshkosh M-ATVs and MaxxPro MRAPs, both of which are built to withstand ballistic and improvised explosive devices. CNN also reported that locals confirmed Saudi and Emirate forces airdropped American-made TOW anti-tank missiles “on the same frontline where [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] had been known to operate at the time.”

The al-Qaida-aligned Abu Abbas brigade now possesses U.S.-made Oshkosh vehicles, and Iranian-linked Houthi rebels have been filmed with a captured U.S.-made MRAP in the capital Sanaa, according to CNN.

In a public hearing on Feb. 11, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon has “not authorized Saudi Arabia or the Emirates to re-transfer any of this equipment to other parties on the ground in Yemen.”