Revealed: How UN investigation proved missiles that hit Saudi Arabia were Iranian

Iran’s new ballistic missile Dezful, which has with a range of 1,000 kilometers, during its inauguration on February 7, 2019. (Revolutionary Guard Corps/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2020

Revealed: How UN investigation proved missiles that hit Saudi Arabia were Iranian

  • Unique internal component enabled investigators to trace weapons to Tehran, security analyst tells Arab News

NEW YORK: A unique internal component enabled UN investigators to prove that cruise missiles and drones used to attack Saudi Arabia last year were Iranian.

The UN examined debris from weapons used in strikes on an oil facility in Afif in May, on Abha International Airport in June and August, and on the Saudi Aramco oil processing plants in Khurais and Abqaiq in September.

“The secretariat assesses that the cruise missiles and/or parts thereof used in the four attacks are of Iranian origin,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in a report to the Security Council. Drones used in the May and September attacks were also “of Iranian origin,” Guterres said.

The strikes against Aramco facilities caused extensive damage and briefly interrupted production of half the Kingdom’s oil output. France, Germany and Britain joined the US in September last year in accusing Iran of carrying out the attacks. Tehran has denied any involvement.

However, the UN investigation “confirms what we knew before,” security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik told Arab News. 

“These missiles are consistent with Iranian-designed systems, particularly internal components that can be traced back to Tehran’s production lines, or from illicit imports for its indigenous arms industry,” said Karasik, of Gulf State Analytics in Washington.

“Forensic work shows that these Iranian missiles contain a specific type of gyroscope that was found in missile wreckage after the attacks on Saudi Arabia.  The same gyroscopes have been found in maritime interdiction operations in and around the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden.

“The gyroscopes, which give the missiles their unique capability, are a trademark of Iran’s missile program.

“The launch of these missiles from northern Yemen and southern Iraq, as determined by telemetry models and data, seals the case that these attacks on Saudi Arabia were conducted by Iran in violation of international law.”

UN investigators also examined weapons seized by the US off the coast of Yemen in November 2019 and February this year, destined for Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Guterres’ report said some of those weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, were of Iranian origin, and others, such as optical weapons sights, had been delivered to Iran. The UN chief urged member states to “avoid provocative rhetoric and actions that may have a negative impact on regional stability.”

Meanwhile the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said on Saturday it had intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile targeting the border city of Najran. The coalition said the missile was fired from the Yemeni city of Saada, and some people were slightly injured by fragments of the weapon when it was destroyed.

UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid

A woman talks with a soldier of the Syrian army during distribution of humanitarian aid from the Russian military, in the town of Rastan, Syria. (AP)
Updated 23 min 26 sec ago

UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid

  • Russia and China argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council failed to find a consensus on prolonging cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria on Friday after Russia and China vetoed an extension and members rejected a counter proposal by Moscow.
Without an agreement, authorization for the transport of aid to war-torn Syria, which has existed since 2014, expired Friday night.
Germany and Belgium were working on a final initiative to save the effort, with hopes of bringing it to a vote this weekend.
“We are ready to work round the clock, and call on others to think of the millions of people in Syria waiting for the Security Council to decide their fate,” said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month.
After Moscow and Beijing wielded vetoes for a second time this week, only three countries joined Russia in backing its proposal to cut the number of aid transit points from two to one.
China supported Russia, but seven countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Belgium voted against, with four abstentions.
An attempt by Russia to pass a similar resolution also failed earlier this week.
The NGO Oxfam had warned that stopping cross-border aid would be “a devastating blow to the millions of Syrian families who rely on this aid for clean water, food, health care and shelter.”
Thirteen countries voted in favor of an earlier German-Belgian draft, but Moscow and Beijing opposed the extension because they favor a more limited proposal.
European countries and the US want to maintain two crossing points on the Turkish border — at Bab Al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab Al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region.
The UN authorization allows the body to distribute aid to displaced Syrians without needing permission from Damascus.
Russia and China argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.
The latest proposal by Russia, which claims to want continued aid for the insurgent Idlib region, would have kept only the Bab Al-Hawa access point open, and for one year.
Moscow claims that more than 85 percent of current aid goes through Bab Al-Hawa and that the Bab Al-Salam entry point can therefore be closed.
Western countries oppose it, with the US having described two entry points as “a red line.”
In January, Moscow, Syria’s closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year.
According to Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.
Another diplomat noted that “if the authorization is renewed a few days late, it is not the absolute end of the world. It suspends the convoys for a few days, it does not put them in danger.”
For the UN, keeping as many entry points open as possible is crucial, particularly given the risk of the coronavirus pandemic, which is spreading in the region.
In a report in June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a one-year extension of the aid to include the two current access points.
When asked Thursday if the UN would be satisfied with a single entry point into Syria, body spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We need more aid to go through the border. We do not need less to go through.”
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, called it a “dark day” for Syrian civilians and the UN.
He added it “defies logic or humanity to dismantle a system designed to bring life-saving aid to Syrians in the form of food, health supplies, vaccines, and now critical COVID-19 provisions.”