Iran further escalates tensions with Saudi Arabia through Yemen proxies
London- For the third time in two months, the Iran-allied Houthi rebels launched a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh, an attack a senior US official said bore the hallmarks of Tehran.
Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile fired December 19 by the Houthis, an official statement from Riyadh said. The weapon was said to have targeted residential areas.
The statement said the attack proved the continued involvement of Iran in supporting the Houthis “with advanced capabilities in clear and stark defiance and breach of UN Security Council Resolutions 2216 and 2231.”
The December 19 assault was preceded by a missile attack December 1 and an attempt targeting Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on November 4.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, also on December 19, told the Security Council that evidence concerning Iran arming the Houthi militia was mounting and those actions violated the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany.
“This is the secretary-general’s fourth report on the Iranian regime’s lack of full compliance with Resolution 2231,” Haley said, “and it is the most damning report yet. This report makes the case that Iran is illegally transferring weapons.”
Saudi Colonel Turki bin Saleh al- Maliki, official spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces in Yemen, said during a December 20 news conference: “The Houthi-Iranian militias targeted the Saudi kingdom with 83 ballistic missiles,” adding that the Arab coalition had destroyed the rebels’ ballistic missile launch pads.
To pre-empt additional Houthi provocations, Saudi border troops were monitoring the kingdom’s border crossing with Yemen.
US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the many world leaders who condemned the Houthi missile attack.
During a phone call December 20, Trump and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud “discussed the importance of engaging the United Nations to hold Iran accountable for its repeated violations of international law,” a White House statement said. They were also said to have agreed on the necessity of reviving the political process towards ending the war.
Tehran has denied involvement with the Houthis but boastful statements from Iranian officials indicated otherwise.
At a mid-December conference in Tehran, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he expected victory in Yemen soon.
“Over the past two years, we have been witnessing constant victories in Yemen as well as the defeat of the efforts of the Islamic Revolution enemies,” Jafari said. “We need to consolidate and expand such victories.”
Despite statements by Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi threatening Saudi Arabia with more missile attacks and boasts that the range of his group’s rockets was expanding, the Saudi-led coalition opened the Yemeni port of Hudaydah for humanitarian aid and announced that commercial ships, including those carrying food and fuel, would be allowed to enter for 30 days.
Saudi officials said that since the missile attack on Riyadh on November 4, the Arab coalition had delivered 435,067 tonnes of food supplies, 396 tonnes of medical supplies and 332,988 tonnes of miscellaneous humanitarian aid.
The conflict in Yemen began when Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh overran Sana’a in September 2014 and seized most of the country. A Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and the United Kingdom, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015.
Saleh was killed December 4 by the Houthis in an attack on his motorcade two days after he said that he was willing to “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition.