Iran missiles shipped to Houthis in Yemen seized, displayed by U.S.

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By Christopher Sparks, November 30, 2018

The U.S. State Department on Nov. 29 displayed what it says is proof that Iran continues to violate UN resolutions which prohibit the Islamic Republic from exporting weapons.

During a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington, D.C., the State Department unveiled Iranian missiles that were seized in Yemen and Afghanistan which it said were delivered to, or intended for delivery to, the Houthi rebels and the Taliban, two of Iran’s terror proxies.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook speaks during a press conference in a hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on Nov. 29. / EPA

“Today, the United States is unveiling new evidence of Iran’s ongoing missile proliferation,” said Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Special Representative for Iran.

“The Iranian threat is growing and we are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to act,” Hook said. “Iran’s support of the Houthi militants has deepened. Its backing of terrorist activities across the world has increased, and its efforts to undermine regional stability have expanded.”

The State Department on Nov. 29 first displayed an Iranian designed and manufactured Sayyad 2C surface-to-air missile. The missile is one of two identical systems interdicted by Saudi Arabia in Yemen earlier this year.

Writing in Farsi on the side of the weapon translates as “the hunter missile.”

“The conspicuous Farsi markings is Iran’s way of saying they don’t mind being caught violating UN resolutions,” Hook said. “The Iranians wanted to deliver this to the Houthis, who would have used it to target coalition aircraft up to 46 miles away. Given the Houthis’ reckless use of other advanced weapons provided by the Iranians, these missiles pose a clear and present danger to civil aviation in the region.”

The State Department also displayed Toophan and Tosan anti-tank guided missiles that Iran “produces and transfers.” One of the Toophan rockets was seized in an arms cache aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea. The other was found by Saudi Arabia during a raid in Yemen.

“These missiles enhance the Houthis’ capabilities and further intensify the conflict in Yemen,” Hook said.

Fajr rockets were also added to the display by the State Department. The weapons were recovered in Helmand, near Kandahar Air Field, by the Afghan National Army from the Taliban. Iran has been providing material support to the Taliban since at least 2007. Fajr rockets have been used by Hamas in the past.

Also displayed was debris from the Shahed 123 missile system, which was recovered by coalition forces in Afghanistan after it crashed, as well as Shahed components that were interdicted in Yemen in early 2018, the State Department said.

“This missile system is primarily designed to conduct covert reconnaissance and surveillance missions, potentially putting American and coalition forces at risk,” Hook said.

The State Department also displayed what it said were several small arms of Iranian origin, such as sniper rifles, RPGs, AK variants, and hand grenades.

“These have been provided to us by Bahrain,” Hook said. “Iran gave these weapons to Shia militant groups to carry out attacks against the government.”

“This is a function of Iran’s relentless commitment to put more weapons into the hands of even more of its proxies, regardless of the suffering,” Hook said. “Iran has been prohibited by several UN resolutions from exporting arms for a decade. These restrictions were in place starting in 2006 under UN Security Council Resolution 1737 and 1747, which I helped to negotiate. The prohibitions have continued since 2015 under UN Resolution 2231. This display and the items we have added to it reveal an outlaw regime exporting arms as it pleases.”

Additionally, Hook said, the U.S. has evidence that Iran is helping Hizbullah build missile production facilities in Lebanon and, in Iraq, “credible reports indicate that Iran is transferring ballistic missiles to Shia militia groups.”

Iran “is also dumping cash and forces into conflict zones to support its proxies from the Levant to the Arabian Peninsula,” Hook said. “It has extended $4.6 billion in lines of credit to the Assad regime, provided more than $100 million to Palestinian groups including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and manages as many as 10,000 Shia fighters in Syria, some of whom are children as young as 12-years-old.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have called for a ceasefire in Yemen, “and the United States is committed to the efforts led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths,” Hook said. “Iran has no legitimate interest in Yemen, other than to expand its sphere of influence and to create a Shia corridor of control. Although Iran’s role in Yemen has been underreported by the media, there is no question Iran has intensified the humanitarian catastrophe and prolonged the conflict.”

Hook continued: “The United States and our coalition partners have provided billions in aid to the Yemenis, while Iran has provided nothing but weapons and fighters. Just today Houthi rebels fired missiles into Saudi Arabia. This strike is an example of the destabilizing agenda the Houthis are pursuing in partnership with Iran.”

An “entrenched and enduring Iranian presence” in Yemen would be akin to “a new version of Lebanese Hizbullah” in the Arabian Peninsula, Hook said. “Since the end of 2006, Iran has supplied Hizbullah with thousands of precision rockets, missiles, and small arms. It now has more than 100,000 rockets or missiles in its stockpile. If Iran were allowed to operate with similar freedom in Yemen, we can expect the Lebanization of Yemen.”

The State Department noted that Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East, with more than 10 ballistic missile systems either in its inventory or under development.

“Any environment where Iran is able to operate freely can become a forward-deployed missile base for such systems and for many other kinds of weapons that you see here today,” Hook said. “This threatens Israel and other partners, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Earlier this month, the United States reimposed the remaining sanctions that were lifted by the Iran nuclear deal. “This sanctions campaign puts us in a much stronger position to be confronting the same threats that I have described to you today,” Hook said. “Our maximum pressure campaign will continue until Iran – the Iranian regime – decides to change its destructive policies. The regime can change its policies, or it can continue to watch its economy crumble.”

President Donald Trump “has made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the status quo,” Hook said. “We seek a new and comprehensive deal with Iran that addresses the full range of Iran’s destructive activities in the region. As Secretary Pompeo said in his speech announcing our new strategy in May, Iran must stop testing and proliferating missiles, stop launching and developing nuclear-capable missiles, and stop supporting militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen. Iran needs to start behaving like a normal country and surrender its title as the world’s number one sponsor of terrorism.”

Hook added: “It is now up to the supreme leader to do something out of character and act in the interests of the Iranian people. Is it better to remain isolated from the world as an international pariah or to benefit and prosper from inclusion in the international community? It should not be a difficult choice.”

Christopher Sparks is a veteran journalist who has worked for metropolitan and community newspapers in New York City, Washington, D.C., upstate New York and Florida. 

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