US shows arms 'Iran gave to Yemeni rebels'

Ms Nikki Haley unveiling a recovered missile that the US says was made in Iran and fired by Houthi militants at Saudi Arabia last month.
Ms Nikki Haley unveiling a recovered missile that the US says was made in Iran and fired by Houthi militants at Saudi Arabia last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Weaponry being used to secure new global consensus for harsher action against Iran

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration has said it would use what it describes as evidence of Iran's deepening military involvement in Yemen's civil war to secure a new international consensus for harsher action against Teheran, part of a plan to isolate its chief adversary in the Middle East.

US officials have seized on a series of missile strikes by a Yemeni rebel group against Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to intensify global pressure on Iran. Saudi-led forces, have been fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen's more than two-year-long civil war.

During an elaborately staged presentation at a Washington military base on Thursday, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley showcased weaponry that she said constituted "undeniable" proof that Iran had expanded its support for the Houthis in Yemen as it continues to back armed groups in Lebanon, Syria and other countries.

"This evidence demonstrates a pattern of behaviour in which Iran sows conflict and extremism," Ms Haley said, flanked by an array of mangled missile parts, a broken-up drone and other weaponry recovered by Persian Gulf allies of the United States.

The rare decision to publicly present material exploited by intelligence analysts underscores the White House's determination to galvanise global action against Iran even as President Donald Trump threatens to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor and other world powers.

The focus of Ms Haley's presentation were remnants of what officials say are two ballistic missiles manufactured in Iran, smuggled into Yemen and used by Houthi fighters to launch a series of attacks this year on targets deep within Saudi Arabia, including one of the country's busiest civilian airports.

US officials point to design features and markings that indicate the missiles are Iranian Qiam short-range ballistic missiles. "The weapons might as well have had 'Made in Iran' stickers all over" them, Ms Haley said, accusing Teheran of violating UN Security Council resolutions.

The Iranian government has denied the allegations. In a message on Twitter, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif compared Ms Haley's presentation to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 allegations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which were later found to be false.

"When I was based at the UN, I saw this show and what it begot," he said.

US administration officials have already privately briefed allied officials on the new information. But Ms Haley declined to give specifics about what actions the US would ask allies to take against Iran at the UN or elsewhere.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'US shows arms 'Iran gave to Yemeni rebels''. Print Edition | Subscribe