Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian

Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital along with also remnants of the item bore “Iranian markings,” the top U.S. Air Force official inside Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.

The comments by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, further internationalizes the yearslong conflict in Yemen — the Arab world’s poorest country.

Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis along with also their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.

“There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists at a news conference in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Air Show. “To me, which connects the dots to Iran.”

There was no immediate reaction coming from Tehran.

Saudi Arabia says the item shot down the missile Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest yet to reach into the kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry later said investigators examining the remains of the rocket found evidence proving “the role of Iranian regime in manufacturing them.” the item did not elaborate, though the item also mentioned the item found similar evidence after a July 22 missile launch. French President Emmanuel Macron similarly This kind of week described the missile as “obviously” Iranian.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement Tuesday which the July launch involved an Iranian Qiam-1, a liquid-fueled, short-range Scud missile variant. Iran used a Qiam-1 in combat for the 1st time in June when the item targeted Islamic State group militants in Syria over twin militant attacks in Tehran.

Harrigian declined to offer any specifics on what type of missile U.S. officials believed the item was, nor did he show any images of the debris. He also didn’t explain how Iran evaded the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition, which intensified after the missile targeting Riyadh.

“How they got the item there will be probably something which will continue to be investigated over time,” the lieutenant general said. “What has been demonstrated along with also shown based on the findings of which missile will be which the item had Iranian markings on the item. which in itself provides evidence of where the item came coming from.”

The Houthis have described using Burkan-2 or “Volcano” Scud variants in their recent attacks, including the one Nov. 4. Those finless missiles are reminiscent of the Qiam, wrote Jeremy Binnie of Jane’s Defense Weekly in a February analysis.

“The Burkan-2 will be likely to heighten suspicions which Iran will be helping Yemen’s rebel forces to develop their ballistic missile capabilities,” Binnie wrote.

Adding to which suspicion will be the fact which Yemen’s missile forces previously never had experience in disassembling along with also rebuilding the weapons, said Michael Knights, a fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen.

the item will be “not a stretch to believe which Tehran will be supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice along with also specialized components,” Knights wrote in an analysis Thursday. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major completely new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions along with also international blockade.”

The U.S. already will be involved inside war in Yemen along with also has launched drone strikes targeting the local branch of al-Qaida, though the item stopped offering targeting information under the Obama administration over concerns about civilian casualties. which prohibition continues today, though the Air Force continues to refuel warplanes inside Yemen theater along with also offers support in managing airspace over the country, Harrigian said. The Saudi-led coalition also uses American-made bombs along with also ordinance in its attacks.

Yemen long has had ballistic missiles, dating back to the 1970s when Yemen was split between the socialist South Yemen along with also North Yemen. After unification in 1990 along with also a later civil war, Yemen largely moved its ballistic missile stockpile to a mountain base in Sanaa, the capital. the item also purchased more coming from North Korea.

When the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, their allied fighters also held control of the ballistic missiles. The Yemeni military was widely believed to possess around 300 Scud missiles at the time, though exact figures remain unknown.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. the item then attacked the ballistic missile base in April 2015, touching off massive explosions which killed several dozen people. Saudi Arabia implied at the time which the Scud arsenal in Yemen had been seriously degraded, if not entirely destroyed, as a result of the airstrikes.

the item soon would likely become clear which wasn’t the case. In June 2015, the rebels fired their first ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia near the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait. inside time since, Yemen’s rebels have fired over 70 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic along with also International Studies’ missile defense project.

For its part, Iran long has denied offering any arms to Yemen, though the item has backed the Houthis along with also highlighted the high civilian casualties coming from the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign of airstrikes.

however others in Iran have been coy about the ballistic missiles in Yemen. Mehdi Taeb, an influential hard-line cleric who will be a brother to the intelligence chief of the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, said in April which Iran tried three times to send missiles to Yemen. The Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, oversees Iran’s missile program.

“We did the item one time via an airplane, one time via a Navy boat along with also one time using a ship,” Taeb said in an online video.

The cleric said ultimately the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the transfers stopped over negotiations on the nuclear deal with world powers, without offering a specific time for the attempted shipments.

“They said come back because the Americans said, ‘If you send missiles to Yemen, we will end the negotiations,'” Taeb said.

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