US to present evidence Iran is providing missiles to Yemen rebels
The Trump administration will present evidence Thursday of what it says is proof that Iran has provided missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, missiles like those the rebels have recently fired into Saudi Arabia, three defense officials told CNN Wednesday.
The evidence, including missile components, is expected to be presented to reporters at Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, according to the officials.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will be presenting the evidence.
Two US officials told CNN that some of the evidence will include components of two Qiam-1 liquid-fueled ballistic missiles which were recovered after Houthi rebels fired missiles into Saudi Arabia in November and July.
The officials said that the missile’s lack of typical stabilizer fins and other aspects of its engineering are proof that it originated in Iran. The official said Iran is the only country in the world that manufactures these types of missiles which use what the official called a “Wind Bolt,” a unique Iranian design.
“This is the only missile in the world without stabilizer fins,” a defense official told CNN.
The official added that the inside of the missile bore a stamp from Shahid Bagheri Industries, an Iranian state-owned company.
“We can clearly trace these back to Iran’s ministry of defense,” the official said.
The missile also showed signs of both industrial welding that occurred during the missile’s initial manufacture and cruder welding, the latter the officials said was evidence that it was assembled on the battlefield in Yemen, likely after being smuggled from Iran into Yemen in separate parts.
“The only reason to do that would to be to get it into smaller pieces for illicit transport,” the official said.
The official added that evidence presented of other Iranian support for the Houthis will also include an Iranian-made drone that was recovered by Yemeni-tribal fighters allied with the Saudi-led coalition, an Iranian made anti-tank weapon, and an Iranian made boat that was bound for the Houthis but intercepted by forces from the UAE.
The defense official explained that the captured watercraft, known as a Shark 33, had an autopilot guidance system that resembles those purchased “off the shelf,” however he said that the circuit boards from that guidance system have been recovered and are in the possession of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
After analyzing them it was determined that the circuit boards were manufactured by a state sponsored electronics company, FHM electronics. He added that that the guidance system has been modified so the boat can on autopilot identify the biggest object and lock onto it, and attack without any crew needed to operate the attacking boat.
The official said the watercraft is carried a warhead from a Styx anti-ship missile so it can be used to attack ships.
The official further explained that the onboard camera, which is part of the guidance system, had also taken and stored a picture of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy facility. The onboard computer also had a Farsi keyboard.
“Iran has provided increasingly strategic military support to the Houthis. The Emiratis have seized Iranian manufactured UAVs in Yemen. Iran has also provided explosive boats to the Houthis which the Houthis have already employed this year against the Saudi navy,” Cdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency, told CNN.
“We have indications that Iran is providing missile support to the Houthis in Yemen, which can only escalate the conflict further and impose a significant threat to regional security,” Marks added.
A US official said that the presentation of the evidence will help make the case that Iran is in violation of multiple UN security council resolutions 2231 and 2216, part of a new Trump administration effort to ratchet up pressure on Tehran as the administration weighs whether to stay in the Iran nuclear deal which was negotiated by the previous administration.
US military officials have previously said that Iran has supplied missiles to Houthi rebels including a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia that targeted the capital Riyadh in November.
“There’s been markings that indicate that it was Iranian origin,” Jeffrey Harrigian, the commander of US Air Forces Central Command, told journalists at a news conference in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Air Show last month.
“The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its partners are arming, advising, and enabling the Houthis’ violent actions,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement last week.
The US provides aerial refueling support to aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen. The US military also provides what it calls limited intelligence sharing to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from cross border attacks.
However the Trump administration has also called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to do more to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people brought about by the years long civil war.
“We call on the Saudi-led coalition to facilitate the free flow of humanitarian aid and critical commercial goods, including fuel, through all Yemeni ports and to restore commercial flights through Sana’a Airport,” Sanders said.