US eyes coalition to ‘really push back against Iran’

Remains of Iranian drones on display before US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media on highlights of the UN's 2231 Implementation Report at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, on December 14.

2017/12/17 Issue: 136 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Thomas Seibert

Washington- New US accusations against Iran of involve­ment in the war in Yemen demonstrate a determination by Wash­ington to forge an international al­liance against the Iranian govern­ment.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said there is “absolute and undeniable” evi­dence that Iran supplied weapons to Houthi rebels in its proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, in violation of UN rules.

At the same time, a confidential report to the UN Security Council said an examination of debris from missiles fired at Saudi Arabia point­ed to a “common origin,” news re­ports said. However, the UN experts said they drew no firm conclusion as to the specific origin even though it noted that arms seized by the United States en route to Yemen in 2016 were identical to Iranian weap­ons found previously.

Standing next to the remains of what US officials described as an Iranian Qiam missile fired by Houthi rebels at the airport in Riyadh, Ha­ley said Iran’s defiance of the in­ternational community was not isolated to support for the rebels in Yemen.

“This evidence demonstrates a pattern of behaviour,” she said. Ha­ley asked her audience to imagine that a Qiam missile might be fired at airports in Washington, New York or European capitals. “When you look at this missile, this is terrifying. This is absolutely terrifying,” she said.

Haley said the suspected Iranian involvement in regional conflicts in the Middle East had to stop. “You will see us build a coalition to really push back against Iran and what they’re doing,” the UN ambassador said. “I can tell you we are not going to sit back and watch this.”

The Trump administration said it wants to create an anti-Iran alli­ance in the Middle East that could include Saudi Arabia and Israel. A Saudi-led coalition force has been waging an air campaign in Yemen that has been criticised for killing hundreds of civilians. The Saudi-led coalition has been supporting the internationally recognised gov­ernment against the Houthi rebels.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yis­rael Katz said he has invited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sal­man bin Abdulaziz to Israel. The two countries have no diplomatic relations but are reported to be co­operating on intelligence matters.

While he is seeking a united regional front against Tehran, US President Donald Trump has thrown the future of the interna­tional nuclear agreement with Iran into doubt by refusing to certify that Tehran is complying with the ac­cord. Washington said the nuclear deal has done nothing to stop Iran’s aggressive behaviour in the Middle East, where Tehran has widened its influence in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

Iranian Foreign Minister Moham­mad Javad Zarif compared Haley’s news conference with a presenta­tion by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations in 2003, in which Powell showed al­leged evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to legitimise the US-led invasion that year and to find allies for the war. No such weapons were subsequently found in Iraq.

The United States faces an up­hill challenge in trying to convince other members of the UN Security Council to take stronger measures against Iran.

Permanent council members Chi­na and Russia were also reluctant to increase pressure on Iran. US allies in Europe have argued that, while there should be talks with Iran about its missile programme and its behaviour in the region, the issue should be kept separate from the nuclear deal.

Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.

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