U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, standing before military debris that she claimed to be of Iranian origin, offered Thursday what she presented as “indisputable” evidence of Iran’s UN resolution-violating actions in the Middle East.
“The nuclear deal has done nothing to moderate the regime’s conduct in other areas. Aid from Iran’s revolutionary guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing,” Haley said at a press conference at Joint Base Andrews, where reporters were invited to inspect the evidence on display behind her. “Its ballistic missile and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. 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.”
Haley’s accusations were the latest in a series of actions the Trump administration has taken to try to raise international pressure on Iran, including ramping up sanctions on the Islamist regime in Tehran.
Trump’s critics warn such moves could lead to an eventual military confrontation between Washington and Tehran, and some say the U.S. rhetoric and actions on Iran have echoes of the Bush administration’s build-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Still, although most of the international community supports keeping the Iran nuclear deal intact, there is growing concern among U.S. allies in Europe and beyond about Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the Middle East.
The U.S. ambassador said Thursday that the debris she offered as proof of Iran’s inflammatory behavior was not directly related to the nuclear deal but was a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which, among other provisions, prohibits Iran from progressing its ballistic missile program in certain ways and bans Iran from weapons transfers.
“We have said everything doesn’t have to be tied to the nuclear deal, but it does have to be tied to the security council resolutions. This is blatant violation of what they are not supposed to be doing,” Haley said. “Everybody has tip-toed around Iran in fear of them getting out of the nuclear deal, and they are allowing missiles like this to be fired over to innocent civilians.”
Last October, President Donald Trump announced that he would decertify Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal but not pull the U.S. out of it, declaring that the Islamic Republic had not lived up to “the spirit of the deal,” in part because of its non-nuclear activities.
Behind Haley on Thursday was debris that she said included a rocket with distinctive features that only Iranian models have that she said had been fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen at a commercial airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Also included in the display, Haley said, was material from an anti-tank guided missile, an explosive boat and a so-called “kamikaze drone,” all of which she claimed had parts from Iran.
Some of the material had been declassified by the U.S. government, which Haley noted was an unusual step, and presented to the UN secretary general, whose report on Iran’s actions Haley cited in her remarks.
Houthi rebels, increasingly backed by Iran, have been engaged in a brutal conflict with the Yemeni government and the Saudi military that is backing it. The Yemeni civil war is widely considered a humanitarian disaster and a proxy war against the Iranian government, with significant civilian casualties inflicted by Saudi forces, who have been backed by their U.S. counterparts.
Haley said the U.S. would invite every member of Congress to view the debris as well as every member of the UN Security Council. Beyond building a “coalition” to put increased pressure on Iran, she offered little in terms of concrete steps.
“What I’ve seen from our foreign partners is that…now they actually see that the president was right,” Haley said. “Now they see that yes, there are problems. Yes, there are other activities because they’re feeling it in their own countries.”
Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.