(CNSNews.com) – In line with its pledge to confront Iran over activities beyond its nuclear program, the Trump administration on Thursday unveiled what it said was evidence that Iran supplied Shi’ite rebels in Yemen with a missile that last month targeted Riyadh’s international airport – “through which tens of thousands of passengers travel each day.”
Speaking in front of debris of a missile at a military installation in south-west Washington, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley accused Iran not just of supplying that projectile to Houthi rebels, but of a pattern of dangerous behavior that extended to Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
“It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it,” she told reporters.
Haley took aim at Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday likened the regime’s actions in the region to putting out fires lit by “unhinged” arsonists.
“But the United Nations just released a new report that tells the opposite story,” she said. “It tells the story of Iran as the arsonist. The report shows the Tehran regime not putting out fires, but fanning the flames of conflict in the region.”
The report in question is the secretary-general’s periodic report on Iran’s compliance – or lack of it, Haley observed – with the 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.
On November 4, the Saudi military said it had intercepted a ballistic missile heading for the King Khaled International Airport near Riyadh – the kingdom’s second-busiest – and accused Iran of responsibility.
The Saudis, who lead a controversial military campaign in support of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, said Iran’s alleged provision of missiles to the Houthis amounted to aggression and even arguably “an act of war.”
Haley said missile debris displayed at Thursday’s briefing had been loaned from the Saudi and Emirati governments, and that she was inviting members of the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Congress to inspect it.
She pointed to features of the missile which she said were identified only with Iran’s Qiam missile – “essentially Iranian missile fingerprints” – as well as debris stamped with the logo of U.S.- and U.N.-sanctioned Iranian missile manufacturer, Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group.
“This evidence is part of what has led the U.S. intelligence community to conclude, unequivocally, that these weapons were supplied by the Iranian regime,” she said. “The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had ‘Made in Iran’ stickers all over it.”
Haley emphasized that the missile had targeted an international civilian airport.
“Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin. That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what Iran is actively supporting.”
Haley called the incident “absolutely terrifying.”
‘Iran believes they have been given a pass’
“Everybody has tiptoed around Iran in fear of them getting out of the nuclear deal,” she said. “And they are allowing missiles like this to be fired over to innocent civilians.”
Haley warned that Iran’s actions were dangerous and “will lead us to the next North Korea if we don’t do something to stop them.”
She also signaled that the administration plans to disclose more “uncomfortable” evidence in the future about Iran’s malign activities, which were happening not just in Yemen, but in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as well.
“We have said multiple times that this is not just about the nuclear program. This is about everything else they’re doing, because Iran believes they have been given a pass,” she said.
The international community must make clear not only that the regime has not been given a pass, but that all of its bad behavior must stop immediately.
Iran’s mission to the U.N. issued a statement denying Haley’s charges, calling them “irresponsible, provocative and destructive.”
“While Iran has not supplied Yemen with missiles, these hyperboles are also to serve other U.S. agendas in the Middle East, including covering up for its adventurist acts in the region and its unbridled support for the Israeli regime,” the mission said.
Zarif also hit back at Haley on Twitter, juxtaposing a photo of her in front of the missile remnants with one of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell addressing the Security Council on Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction programs ahead of the 2003 U.S. invasion.
“When I was based at the U.N., I saw this show and what it begat,” tweeted Zarif, who served as Tehran’s ambassador to the U.N. from 2002-2007.