Saudi Arabia has welcomed the new UN report that found weapons “of Iranian origin” were used in several attacks against the Kingdom last year, saying it was glad that international partners are now acknowledging long-standing concerns over Iran’s “reprehensible” regional expansion.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has consistently warned of the security consequences of arms agreements that overlook Iran’s regional expansion and ignore the legitimate security concerns of regional states. Today, we are glad that international partners are acknowledging these issues. It might have taken some time, but better late than never,” Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN Ambassador Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi told Al Arabiya English.
Another Saudi Arabian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the confirmed existing information about Iran’s “reprehensible activities in the region.”
“Iran is a force for destruction, destabilization, and ruin in the region. The UN, and all responsible members of the international community are working to achieve the opposite of Iran’s goals in the region. This report is an important reminder that cooperation is key in the face of Iranian aggression,” the official told Al Arabiya English.
The report, authored by UN chief Secretary-General António Guterres, examined the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 – the resolution by which the UN endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015.
It concluded that weapons “of Iranian origin” were used in attacks against Saudi Arabian oil facilities in Afif in May, on the Abha international airport in June and August and on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Khurais and Abqaiq in September.
It found that Iranian arms seized upon two dhows bound for Yemen “may have been transferred in a manner inconsistent” with resolution 2231, raising concerns over Iran’s commitment as a diplomatic partner at a time when the UN Security Council is discussing whether to extend the arms embargo on Iran past its October expiry date.
“[The report] will add to the US case for extension of the arms embargo, which is set to expire on October 18, 2020. In fact, there is evidence Tehran is expanding its weapons shipments, with Iranian anti-tank guided missiles being found in Libya,” said Jason Brodksy, the Policy Director of United Against Nuclear Iran.
Iranian missiles transfers not new
The UN’s findings are only the latest case of Iranian weapons transfers to Yemen, said the Saudi Arabian official.
“Since the beginning of the Arab Coalition’s involvement in Yemen under UNSCR 2231, member states of the Arab Coalition in addition to other friendly states have intercepted Iranian weapon shipments to the Houthi militias in Yemen. This is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, there are similarities between weapons that Iran transferred to its terrorist militias in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and those transferred to the Houthi militia in Yemen,” the official said.
“This report is not introducing any new debate about Iran’s reprehensible activities in the region. It is restating what is known to everyone who has been observing the region,” they added.
The official also pointed to the weapon transfers being only one part of Iran’s wider regional proxy network.
“Iran’s ability to destabilize the region as a whole is a result of its large network of proxy groups that it has built over many years. Pushing back against this regional expansion is not possible without cooperation. The first step to facing the Iranian problem in the region is acknowledging it,” they said.
Iranian denials ‘laughable’
Iran denied the conclusions of the UN report, suggesting the UN had unfairly criticized Iran due to political pressure.
The Saudi official dismissed Iran’s denial as “laughable,” pointing to the lack of effort made to conceal the Iranian origins of the weapons, many of which had Farsi markings on.
“It is laughable that the Iranian government would try to undermine the credibility of this report, especially since there seem to have been no efforts on Iran’s part to conceal the origin of these weapons,” they said.
“In one case, an engine recovered from an UAV downed over Saudi Arabia turned out to be identical to an engine exhibited by Iran in a military parade,” they added.
Experts have also said that they were not surprised with the report’s conclusions.
“There was always a very strong suspicion that the cruise missiles used were Iranian. Initially the UN said that it acknowledged the US and the Saudi findings, but couldn’t endorse their findings until they’d examined the evidence. Now it looks like they’ve come to the same conclusion,” said Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The report comes as Al Arabiya English obtained exclusive information of an additional, previously undisclosed arms shipment bound for Yemen.
Images from the dhow, which was intercepted on April 17, 2020, show a range of weapons, munitions and Farsi-language documents apparently bound for Yemen.