Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.
The mullahs in Iran don’t want to hear this news, because it proves Iran is violating its international agreement. Die-hard defenders of the Iran nuclear deal don’t want to hear it because it proves, once again, that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. And some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it.
Yemen is the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The government has virtually ceased to exist. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are exploiting that lawlessness to pursue their barbaric agendas.
The U.N. report reveals much more than just the Iranian sanctions violation. It charges the anti-government Houthi rebels with not only launching ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia but also using the people of Yemen as human shields and kidnapping Yemeni children to fight in the war.
At the same time, the report notes that Saudi restrictions on imports of civilian goods into Yemen worsened the suffering there. Saudi Arabia is now working to address this through a new Yemen humanitarian aid plan. We welcome its engagement with the United Nations to try to address the humanitarian crisis, and urge it to do more.
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But the report, for all its bad news, should be welcomed by those who wish to prevent the conflict in Yemen from becoming a direct, major confrontation in the Middle East. By confirming that Iran is the source of the missiles and other weaponry fired into Saudi Arabia, the U.N. panel has given the world a chance to act before a missile hits a school or a hospital and leads to a dangerous military escalation that provokes a Saudi military response.
It is imperative that we seize this opportunity. Iranian missiles have already come close to hitting civilian targets in Saudi Arabia. Last November, Houthi militants fired a missile at a major civilian airport outside Riyadh. Fortunately, the missile fell short of its target. But, as this newspaper reported, it detonated so close to the terminal that it caused people inside to jump out of their seats. And the debris it left scattered around the airport had Iranian fingerprints all over it.
In December, the United States and our partners took the extraordinary step of declassifying evidence from this missile attack, as well as from other attacks by missiles, conventional arms and explosive boats of Iranian origin — all used by the rebels in Yemen and all violations of U.N. resolutions.
In a warehouse in Washington, we put on display recovered pieces of the missile fired at the Riyadh airport, with its telltale nine valves running the length of it and lack of large stabilizing fins, proof of its Iranian manufacture. Some of the missile remnants on display were stamped with the logo of Shahid Bagheri Industries, an Iranian manufacturer. Based on the strength of this and other evidence, our intelligence community concluded unequivocally that the weapons had been supplied by the Tehran regime. As I said at the time, they might as well have had “Made in Iran” all over them.
The U.N. report agrees with our intelligence, and it makes an additional, critical finding. When we first unveiled our evidence last year, some skeptical observers questioned whether the Iranian weapons had been transferred to Yemen before the imposition of the U.N. arms embargo in April 2015. The new U.N. report makes it clear that the weapons were introduced into Yemen after the arms embargo was imposed, putting Iran in undisputed violation of the United Nations resolution.
No one, in truth, should be surprised by these findings. Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime’s support of dangerous militias and terror groups has markedly increased. Its missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones all across the Middle East. And Houthi militants continue to fire them into Saudi Arabia, including in December, January and this month.
The world can no longer claim ignorance or skepticism of Iran’s role in fomenting instability in the Middle East. To acknowledge the Iranian origin of missiles falling on Saudi Arabia is not, as some charge, to lay the groundwork for war. Far from it. It is a necessary prerequisite for preventing war.
Today, armed with this evidence, we have the chance to rein in Iran’s behavior and demand that it live up to its international agreements that discourage conflict. But if action is not taken, then someday soon, when innocent Saudi civilians are killed by Iranian weapons, the chance for peace will be lost.
Source » nytimes