Tehran is ratcheting up its delivery of weapons to the Houthis as a robust message of defiance against the US and its allies, which have intensified their efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen and confront extremist groups. Iran’s agenda in arming the Houthis is much broader than what has been depicted in mainstream media.
At first, Tehran began helping the Houthis produce short-range ballistic missiles. Through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran would transfer parts to Yemen. But the missiles fired at Saudi Arabia show that Tehran is enhancing the Houthis’ ability to manufacture and launch long-range ballistic missiles.
This could grant Iran critical geopolitical leverage because its proxy is now able to fire ballistic missiles into any Gulf country. Iran’s major state-owned newspaper Kayhan, whose editor is a close adviser of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and is appointed by him, had a front-page headline saying: “The Houthis fired a missile into Riyadh. Dubai is next.”
Statements by the UN and US, as well as reports by intelligence agencies, are significant because they corroborate and substantiate what Saudi leaders have previously pointed out, that Houthi missiles targeting Riyadh were made by Iran.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
In the last few months, Iran has intensified its efforts to advance the Houthis’ missile technology. A UN panel of experts said it is extremely unlikely that the Houthis could manufacture such missiles on their own. “The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian-manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the panel said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that Iran may be violating Security Council Resolution 2231, which “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
The international community does need more evidence to conclude that Iran is violating international law. Its own leaders have said it is helping the Houthis. Influential Iranian cleric Mehdi Tayeb said this has been carried out in stages by the IRGC with the support of the navy. In addition, the deputy commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Ghani, said: “Those defending Yemen have been trained under the flag of the Islamic Republic.”
Statements by the UN and US, as well as reports by intelligence agencies, are significant because they corroborate and substantiate what Saudi leaders have previously pointed out, that Houthi missiles targeting Riyadh were made by Iran. This is an evident act of war that could have tragically killed and wounded hundreds of people.
The aforementioned statements and reports give further global legitimacy to Saudi Arabia, showing that its accusations against Tehran were based on evidence and objective investigation. Tehran harbors deep antagonism toward the Kingdom for religious, political and ethnic reasons.
Under the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran continues to incite violence, support terrorism and destabilize the region to advance its hegemonic ambitions. The aforementioned revelations should be used as powerful tools to mobilize the international community to hold Tehran to account and bring Iranian leaders who are responsible for supporting the Houthis and targeting Saudi Arabia to justice.
The UN should convert its words into action, otherwise the IRGC will be more emboldened. It is time to forcefully counter Tehran’s efforts to provide advanced missile technology to its militias, otherwise no country in the region will be outside their range.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council.
He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business.