US Eyes Coalition to ‘Really Push Back Against Iran’
WASHINGTON — New US accusations against Iran of involvement in the war in Yemen demonstrate a determination by Washington to forge an international alliance against the Iranian government.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said there is “absolute and undeniable” evidence that Iran supplied weapons to Houthi rebels in its proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, in violation of UN rules.
At the same time, a confidential report to the UN Security Council said an examination of debris from missiles fired at Saudi Arabia pointed to a “common origin,” news reports said. However, the UN experts said they drew no firm conclusion as to the specific origin even though it noted that arms seized by the United States en route to Yemen in 2016 were identical to Iranian weapons found previously.
Standing next to the remains of what US officials described as an Iranian Qiam missile fired by Houthi rebels at the airport in Riyadh, Haley said Iran’s defiance of the international community was not isolated to support for the rebels in Yemen.
“This evidence demonstrates a pattern of behaviour,” she said. Haley asked her audience to imagine that a Qiam missile might be fired at airports in Washington, New York or European capitals. “When you look at this missile, this is terrifying. This is absolutely terrifying,” she said.
Haley said the suspected Iranian involvement in regional conflicts in the Middle East had to stop. “You will see us build a coalition to really push back against Iran and what they’re doing,” the UN ambassador said. “I can tell you we are not going to sit back and watch this.”
The Trump administration said it wants to create an anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East that could include Saudi Arabia and Israel. A Saudi-led coalition force has been waging an air campaign in Yemen that has been criticised for killing hundreds of civilians. The Saudi-led coalition has been supporting the internationally recognised government against the Houthi rebels.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said he has invited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to Israel. The two countries have no diplomatic relations but are reported to be cooperating on intelligence matters.
While he is seeking a united regional front against Tehran, US President Donald Trump has thrown the future of the international nuclear agreement with Iran into doubt by refusing to certify that Tehran is complying with the accord. Washington said the nuclear deal has done nothing to stop Iran’s aggressive behaviour in the Middle East, where Tehran has widened its influence in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif compared Haley’s news conference with a presentation by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations in 2003, in which Powell showed alleged evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to legitimise the US-led invasion that year and to find allies for the war. No such weapons were subsequently found in Iraq.
The United States faces an uphill challenge in trying to convince other members of the UN Security Council to take stronger measures against Iran.
Permanent council members China and Russia were also reluctant to increase pressure on Iran. US allies in Europe have argued that, while there should be talks with Iran about its missile programme and its behaviour in the region, the issue should be kept separate from the nuclear deal.
Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.
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