JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.
“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.
US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.
The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.
Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”