(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stood amid missile fragments at a military base in Washington Thursday to show what she called proof that Iran is supplying Houthi rebels in Yemen with weapons in “absolute and undeniable violations” of UN resolutions.
Charts and photographs were on display next to the missile parts, which were provided by Saudi Arabia. They showed, Haley said, that the weapon fired at the main airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Nov. 4 was an Iranian-made Qiam ballistic missile. She said Iran is providing weapons in violation of long-standing UN embargoes on Iran arms exports as well as its obligations under the 2015 deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program.
“Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles airport or JFK,” she told reporters gathered in a hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. Haley also showed parts the Defense Department said were from an attack in July on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia as further evidence that Iran “is defying the international community, and not just one time. This evidence demonstrates a pattern of behavior.”
The presentation was part of the Trump administration’s more confrontational approach to Iran over what officials say are its destabilizing activities in the Middle East, including supporting terrorist groups and militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Haley, like President Donald Trump, argues that the 2015 nuclear agreement is flawed because it ’s failing to restrict such activities.
‘Saw This Show’
Iran “categorically rejected" Haley’s claims, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the UN, said in a statement on his Twitter page. “This purported evidence, put on public display today, is as much fabricated as the one presented on some other occasions earlier.”
Iran has denied any role in the missile attack on the airport, and says it isn’t supplying weapons to the Houthis. At least 14,000 people have been killed or wounded since the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis in neighboring Yemen began in March 2015.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a photo on Twitter of Haley juxtaposed with an image of former Secretary of State Colin Powell providing an intelligence briefing to the UN Security Council in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war. That intelligence was later discredited.
“When I was based at the UN, I saw this show and what it begat...,” Zarif wrote.
Haley’s presentation left a number of questions unanswered. Defense Department spokeswoman Laura Seal said the U.S. didn’t know when the missile was exported from Iran, raising the possibility that it was delivered before the passage of the UN’s 2015 resolution accompanying the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers including the U.S.
An annex to the 2015 resolution calls on all countries to prevent the “supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related materiel from Iran by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran” until 2020. That extended an arms export prohibition dating back to 2007.
“We must speak with one voice exposing the regime for what it is, a threat to peace and security for the entire world,” Haley said.
UN Still Analyzing
At the UN in New York, U.K. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the evidence was compelling but cautioned that not everyone on the Security Council may agree. Asked about Haley’s evidence that Iran had supplied the Houthis with missiles, Sweden’s Ambassador Olof Skoog said “the information that I have up to now is less clear.”
The latest report to the UN secretary-general on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal said that “the Secretariat is still analyzing the information collected” on the missiles fired by the Houthis “and will report back to the Security Council, as appropriate, in due course.”
But it also cited evidence that “arms and related materiel seized by the United States aboard a dhow in the vicinity of the Gulf of Oman in March 2016” are identical to some that were previously found to be “of Iranian origin and shipped from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
In October, Trump refused to certify that the Islamic Republic is in compliance with the nuclear deal, though he stopped short of repudiating the pact in full. He promised new sanctions on Iran, particularly its hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and threatened to terminate the agreement unless parties to the deal address its shortcomings.
Despite a devastating Saudi-led air campaign that has killed hundreds of civilians, the Houthis still control the capital, Sana’a, and about 55 percent of northern Yemen. There was fierce fighting between Saleh’s forces and the Houthis in the city on Saturday night and Sunday.
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