US provides proof of Iran arming Houthis

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of Iranian "Qiam" ballistic missile provided by Pentagon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. (Reuters)
Updated 15 December 2017

US provides proof of Iran arming Houthis

JEDDAH: The US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, on Thursday unveiled declassified evidence that Iran is violating international law by funneling missiles to Houthi militias in Yemen.

The evidence included segments of missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. She displayed the missile parts in a hangar at a military base in Washington.

Haley said the parts bear markings showing that they originate in Iran, and have technical specifications that are specific to Iranian-manufactured weapons.

She said it was proof of “blatant violations” of UN Security Council resolutions while the international community was “looking the other way” because of the nuclear deal.

The US will “build a coalition to really push back against Iran and what they’re doing,” Haley told a news conference.

Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said: “The US has long believed that Iran is providing weaponry to proxies and partners and militias throughout the region, and what we have here to show you today is proof.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had recovered the arms and loaned them to Washington, she added.

The unprecedented presentation by the Pentagon is part of its follow-through on President Donald Trump’s new Iran policy, which promises a far harder line toward Tehran.

Katie Wheelbarger, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said there could be implications of an accumulation of evidence against Iran.

“You could see future sanctions... but the first step is at least to bring awareness and understanding, and to have a similar picture of what we’re looking at,” Wheelbarger was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

The Pentagon offered a detailed explanation of all the reasons why it believed the arms came from Iran, noting Iranian corporate logos on arms fragments and the unique nature of the designs of Iranian weaponry.

That included the designs of short-range Qiam ballistic missiles. The Pentagon said it had obtained fragments of two Qiam missiles, one fired on Nov. 4 and another on July 22.

The Pentagon cited corporate logos of Iranian defense firms on jet vanes that help steer the missile’s engine, and on the circuit board that helps drive its guidance system. It said the missile’s unique valve design is only found in Iran.

Tehran, the Pentagon said, appeared to have tried to cover up the shipment by disassembling the missile for transport, given the crude welding used to stitch it back together.

“The point of this entire display is that only Iran makes this missile. They haven’t given it to anybody else,” Seal said. “We haven’t seen this in the hands of anyone else except Iran and the Houthis.”

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Iran may be defying a UN call to halt ballistic missile development.

He said in a report to the Security Council that the UN is investigating Iran’s possible transfer of ballistic missiles to Houthi militias in Yemen that may have been used in launches aimed at Saudi Arabia on July 22 and Nov. 4.

The report on implementation of a UN resolution that endorsed the July 2015 nuclear deal was obtained Wednesday by AP.

In the report, Guterres said the UN is studying debris from missiles fired at Yanbu in Saudi Arabia on July 22 and at Riyadh on Nov. 4, and is reviewing other information.

He said France, Germany, Britain and the US sent a letter saying the Simorgh Space Launch Vehicle that Iran launched on July 27, if configured as a ballistic missile, is “inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Arabia welcomed the UN report and US stand on Iran’s weapons supplies to the Houthis.

The Kingdom demanded immediate action to implement UN Security Council resolutions and hold Iran accountable for its actions, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

"Iran's support for Houthi terrorist militias constitutes a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions No. 2216 and No. 2231, and has disrupted the political process and prolonged the crisis in Yemen," said an official statement on the Saudi Press Agency.

"Saudi Arabia calls upon the international community to take immediate action to implement the above-mentioned UN Security Council resolutions and to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its aggressive actions," the statement said. "Saudi Arabia reiterates the need to tighten the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) to prevent smuggling."

Gerald Feierstein, former US ambassador to Yemen and director for Gulf affairs and government relations at the Middle East Institute, told Arab News: “The fact that Iran has provided the Houthis with materiel support as well as training and assistance for at least the past five years is well-established.

“But providing the Houthis with the means to threaten major Saudi and perhaps Emirati population centers with missile attacks marks a serious escalation in the Yemen civil war, and reflects the desire of the Houthis and their Iranian patrons to draw Saudi Arabia more deeply into the conflict and regionalize it.”

Feierstein added: “The international community needs to redouble its efforts to prevent the flow of arms and support from Iran to the Houthis in order to bring this conflict to an end.”

Iraq police fire in air as protesters try to storm Basra government building

Updated 15 July 2018

Iraq police fire in air as protesters try to storm Basra government building

BASRA: Dozens of demonstrators were wounded in southern Iraq on Sunday in clashes with police as protests over unemployment and a lack of basic services entered a second week, officials said.
The protests hit several provinces including Basra, despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announcing fresh funds and pledges of investment for the oil-rich but neglected region.
The internet was of service across the country on Sunday for the second consecutive day.
In the city of Basra, demonstrators tried to storm the governor's headquarters but were dispersed by police who fired tear gas at them, an AFP reporter said.
Police also fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators who tried to push their way into the Zubeir oil field south of the city, the reporter said.
In Nasiriyah, provincial capital of neighbouring Dhi Qar province, 15 demonstrators and 25 policemen were injured, deputy health director Abdel Hussein al-Jabri said.
The clashes, including hand-to-hand combat, erupted when the demonstrators gathered outside the governor's office and pelted security forces with stones.
In Muthana province bordering Basra, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the governor's headquarters and some torched parts of the building, a police source said.
Protesters in Muthana also set fire to the offices of the Iranian-backed Badr organisation in the province's largest city of Samawa.
On Saturday, protesters had set alight Badr's headquarters in Basra, prompting authorities to impose an overnight curfew across the whole province.

As the protests continued Abadi met with security and intelligence chiefs in the capital Baghdad on Sunday, warning them to be on alert "because terrorists want to exploit any event or dispute".
"Iraqis do not accept chaos, assaults on the security forces, state and private property, and those who do this are vandals who exploit the demands of citizens to cause harm," he said.
The prime minister also ordered security services not to use live fire against the unarmed protesters.
The unrest first erupted on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person, as youths demonstrated in Basra demanding jobs and accusing the government of failing to provide basic services including electricity.
Two protesters died from gunshot wounds following rallies overnight Friday, although it was not clear who killed them.
At least 30 people were wounded on Saturday night in the central holy city of Karbala, where an AFP reporter said police fired into the air as demonstrators threw stones at them.
The demonstrations have also led to international flights to the shrine city of Najaf being cancelled, as the airport was closed after dozens of protesters forced their way into the waiting room Friday despite a heavy police presence.
Foreign airlines including Oman Air, flydubai and Royal Jordanian have all announced the suspension of flights.
The government's media office said Abadi has ordered the airport to reopen, without giving further details.
Protests continued Sunday morning in Najaf city, where an AFP correspondent said security forces dispersed a large protest.
A sizeable contingent from Saraya al-Salam, a paramilitary force loyal to prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr who won May elections, also deployed in the streets of Najaf.

The protests -- which have spread north to Baghdad -- come as Iraq struggles to rebuild after three-year war against Islamic State group jihadists, which has ravaged their country's infrastructure.
On Saturday evening, Abadi announced investment worth $3 billion (2.6 billion euros) for Basra province, as well as pledging additional spending on housing, schools and services.
"When the state responds to citizens' demands it is a strength, not a weakness," Abadi said during Sunday's meeting with top officials.
The country has been rocked by a series of conflicts since the 1980s and says it needs $88 billion to rebuild after the war on IS jiahdists.
Officially, 10.8 percent of Iraqis are jobless, while youth unemployment is twice as high, in a country where 60 percent of the population is aged under 24.
The oil sector accounts for 89 percent of the state budget and 99 percent of Iraq's export revenues, but only one percent of jobs, as the majority of posts are filled by foreigners.