The United States revealed evidence on 14 December that suggests Iran has been providing weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. While many already believed this to be the case, the evidence seems to substantiate the claims that Saudi Arabia has been making for quite some time. The international agreement that addressed the Iranian nuclear question in 2015 was supposed to prevent Iran from engaging in such behaviour. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that the agreement needed to be harsher against Iran. This evidence could give him the support needed to make the changes he wants.
United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stood in front of weaponry on Thursday that she said could be traced back to Iran. The most visible part of the display was debris of a ballistic missile that Houthi rebels used in their attempted attack on the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh in November. According to Haley, the debris has the markings of Iranian defence firms. The evidence has not yet been confirmed by any other countries. Iran has already denied the claims, comparing the presentation to the 2003 claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If the evidence is accurate, then Donald Trump may be able to change the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In 2015, the JCPOA limited Iran’s nuclear capabilities while also lifting sanctions against the country. The JCPOA was officially endorsed by the UN Security Council through resolution 2231. According to 2231, all countries are supposed to work together to prevent “supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related material” by Iran and its representatives until 2020. While Iran has been meeting the technical obligations of the agreement, many suggested that they have taken advantage of the relaxed sanctions to aid terrorist organizations and destabilize the region. President Trump has repeatedly stated that the 2015 deal is not harsh enough. He withdrew the presidential certification in October in an effort to change the terms of the JCPOA. Now that this evidence has been presented, his argument is only getting stronger.
Saudi Arabia made repeated claims in the past that Iran was supplying Houthi rebels with weapons. In an effort to solve the problem, Saudi Arabia enforced a blockade on Yemen in November. The goal was to stop the smuggling of weapons, but the result was tragic for many Yemenis. Food and clean water came in short supply. Medicine also became difficult to acquire, which made it impossible to slow the cholera epidemic. The worsening humanitarian crisis sparked outrage in the international community. Saudi Arabia lifted its blockade in response, but the damage was already done. Now that there seems to be hard evidence against Iran, Saudi Arabia hopes that the world will help them hold Iran accountable.
Iran’s apparent involvement in Yemen has already caused suffering. Saudi Arabia cannot stop these weapons from getting to the Houthis without creating more problems. France’s foreign minister is already scheduled to visit the United States and Iran in the coming week. Hopefully, this evidence is a wake-up call. Those involved in the JCPOA must discuss how to prevent Iranian weapons from reaching Houthi rebels.