In November, missiles coming from Yemen bombarded the airport Riyadh, rattling Saudi Arabia and upping the ante in this explosive little war. Now, the United Nations has confirmed what Saudi Arabia suspected back then: That Iran is supplying the weapons.
The UN report “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley wrote in the New York Times this weekend demanding that the Security Council act. “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,” she wrote.
This is a small regional conflict with some big geopolitical implications. Yemen is a failed state and Iran and Saudi Arabia have used it as a stage for a deadly proxy war. The Houthi rebels firing the missiles are backed by Iran, who are in turn backed by Russia. A Saudi-led coalition backs another faction, and the Saudis are backed by the United States.
The new report details the clever sleuthing that led investigators to conclude Iran made the ballistic weapons that struck Saudi Arabia. But it also opens a window on the way that missile proliferation is changing the modern battlefield in the hands of rebels and proxy armies—and threatening to widen the conflict through the rest of the Middle East. “Indeed, the panel considers that further ‘internationalization’ of the war is likely,” the U.N. report says.
It’s November 16, 2017. Five arms experts arrive at the scene of the crime: King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh. The U.N. Security Council has assembled this panel of experts to investigate the debris from a rocket that came down inside the airport’s perimeter of two weeks before.
This was just the latest missile attack, with others reported in May and July. One of these attacks sparks a fire at an oil facility on Saudi’s west coast. None of the strikes cause casualties, but they rattle Saudi Arabia, which has claimed publicly that its airstrikes have taken away missiles from the Houthi rebels.
That may not be the only Saudi exaggeration about the missile war in the Middle East. They claim a Saudi Patriot battery shot down the incoming missile as it streaked toward the airport. The investigators look for proof of this. They see a crater at the airport and wreckage that includes parts that should have separated in flight if the missile was working properly.
The telltale signs of a Patriot shoot-down are missing. “The propellant tank, which is designed to separate, had no traces of fragmentation from an interceptor missile warhead,” the report says. Though the conclusion goes unstated, for diplomatic reasons, the fact is that the rocket likely crashed.
On December 15, the U.S. State Department shows off the remains of the missiles. Savvy analysts can see the missing punctures that should be there in the case of a shootdown. They can also see that the tie to Iran is strong.
The U.S. identifies the weapon fired into the airport as an Iranian-made “Qiam,” a short-range relative of the Scud missile. The Qiam can fly 450 miles and drop 1650 lbs. of explosives with claimed 1600-foot accuracy.
But they’re wrong. It’s not a Qiam—it’s worse. According to the U.N. panel, the missile that hit the airport shares its overall dimensions and many of its parts with the Qiam, but could travel more than 1000 km farther. “The Panel finds it is not a Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, but a derived lighter version, designed specifically by the manufacturers of the Qiam-1 to extend the range…by reducing weight,” the report says.
Investigators use the Houthi name for the missile variant, calling it the Borkan-2H. It’s an Iranian design and even has markings on its jet vane housing that strongly resemble the logo of Shahid Bagheri Industries in Iran. The welds on the remains indicate the Houthi rebels (and their one-time Saleh allies) assembled the rockets from parts, the report says, a sign they were smuggled into the war-torn nation in pieces.
“It is highly probable that the route used to supply the Borkan-2H components was the main land supply route into Houthi-Saleh-held territory following a ship-to-shore transfer,” the report says.
The ballistic missiles are just one of several pieces of evidence that Houthi rebels are receiving Iranian weapons. Seizures at border patrol checkpoints have revealed pressurized tanks adapted to store the oxidizer needed to launch these ballistic missiles.
The report doesn’t pinpoint the Iranian regime as the direct suppliers of these weapons, but its conclusion is damning for Iran. The panel says it “has now identified strong indicators of the supply of arms-related material manufactured in, or emanating from, the Islamic Republic of Iran subsequent to the establishment of the targeted arms embargo on 14 April 2015, particularly in the area of short-range ballistic missile technology.”
The response has made the humanitarian crisis in Yemen worse. “Following the missile attack on Riyadh on 4 November 2017, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition ordered the closure of all land crossings into, and all seaports and airports in Yemen,” the report says. “Entry points … under the control of the Houthis, such as Hudaydah, remained closed for weeks. This had the effect of using the threat of starvation as an instrument of war.”
It’s clear that the introduction of long range ballistic missiles to the hyper-violent mix in Yemen is helping the downward spiral into chaos. Already, the report says that, “after nearly three years of conflict, Yemen, as a state, has all but ceased to exist.” Missile technology may help the cancer that devastated Yemen spread elsewhere.
Source » popularmechanics