The US and Iran traded jabs over Yemen’s civil war on Thursday, with the Americans claiming that Iran is supplying weapons to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) insurgency and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards asserting that “victory” is near for their allies.
At a news conference in Washington, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said “the evidence was undeniable” of Iran’s military assistance, with US defense officials putting missile fragments on display.
Haley used the case to press wider arguments for more US sanctions on the Islamic Republic:
The United States is taking a new approach to Iran by focusing on all of the regime’s destabilizing behavior. That means we are not just focused on a nuclear program. We are also taking a hard look at Iran’s ballistic-missile program, its arms exports, and its support for terrorists, proxy fighters, and dictators.
The displayed weapons included the remains of what American officials said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile, fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh International Airport last month. The display also included a drone and an anti-tank weapon that officials said was recovered in Yemen by Saudi forces.
“They might as well have had ‘Made in Iran’ stickers on them,” Haley proclaimed.
A UN Security Council resolution bans the supply of any weapons to the Houthis, who took control of much of Yemen, including the capital Sana’a, by early 2015. The UN resolution passed in connection with the July 2015 nuclear deal prohibited Iran from supplying, selling, or transferring weapons without Security Council approval.
Iran’s UN mission responded that Haley’s claim about the November 4 missile attack on Riyadh airport was “irresponsible, provocative, and destructive“: “These accusations seek also to cover up for the Saudi war crimes in Yemen, with the U.S. complicity, and divert international and regional attention from the stalemate war of aggression against the Yemenis.”
The UN is investigating whether Iran is supplying missiles but has not yet reached a conclusion. Reports on Thursday said UN officials had found a “common origin” for the weapons, but could not conclude if this is an Iranian supplier.
Revolutionary Guards Head: Victory is Near
Without acknowledging any military aid to the Houthis, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, proclaimed that Tehran is working to “consolidate” triumphs: “In the near future we will witness victory in Yemen.”
Speaking hours before Haley’s news conference, Jafari proclaimed an Islamic Resistance Front of Iran and its allies with “successive”, “amazing” achievements:
[The] Revolution has two aspects, internal and external. The external dimension is in the Islamic Resistance, which is expanding in the region and the world….
God-willing, we will witness victory in Yemen in the near future… but now we need to consolidate [our] victories.
Jafari recently said that if “the people of Yemen request” assistance, Iran would help. One Tehran newspaper headlined “The General’s Confession” as the first official Iranian acknowledgement of military backing for the Houthis.