With tensions rising over Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s arming of Houthi rebels in Yemen, the U.S. Navy said individuals who voluntarily leak intel to sailors for counterterrorism operations and illicit shipments in the Middle East could receive up to $100,00 payout in a new rewards program.
The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said those individuals who provide information and nonlethal aid that enables officials to seize illicit cargo such as illegal weapons or narcotics could cash out or receive non-monetary rewards like boats, vehicles, or food.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, told the Associated Press. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
Houthi rebels have threatened 5th Fleet allies in the Red Sea but have not attacked the Navy in the time since. But the 5th Fleet said allies seized $500 million in drugs and 9,000 weapons last year, the Associated Press reports.
The rewards program offered only extends to non-U.S. citizens. Military officials receiving tips from individuals outside the country would have to go through a vetting process to verify the accuracy of the information.
Naval forces seek information on “nefarious means of raising money to finance terrorism, including illegal smuggling of materials being utilized to finance individuals or groups, unmanned aerial vehicles, recovered UAS devices or parts, weapon caches, explosives or chemical weapons,” the report reads.
Military officials also seek out individuals or organizations planning international terrorist acts against the U.S.
Hawkins said the military branch would take tips from a hotline with operators fluent in Arabic, English, and Farsi, while also taking online submissions in Dari and Pashto, the two main languages in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press reports the program launches on Tuesday through the Department of Defense, which ran a similar project in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other regions after al-Qaida launched the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Ali al-Qahom, a Houthi official, said in a tweet last week that the increased U.S. activity in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf waters has rebels monitoring the area.
“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” he said according to the Associated Press. “They and their diabolical projects have no place” in the region.