Iran Needs More Than a Rap on Knuckles

Even as the demonstrations in Iran continue despite its rulers being in denial with claims they have subsided, Tehran has been caught in a pincer on the international front as well.

While US President Donald Trump has been clamouring for stiff action against a truant Iran, setting an ultimatum to fix “disastrous flaws” in an Obama-era deal involving Tehran’s nuclear programme, thus putting its European allies under pressure, a United Nations report was just released which clearly states that a forensic examination of the debris of the missiles fired on Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels in Yemen has all the hallmarks of the missiles having been produced in Iran and supplied by it.

UN experts are quite explicit in stating that the design features of the missiles dropped in Saudi Arabia were “consistent with those of the Iranian-designed and manufactured Qiam-I missile” while the drones were “virtually identical in design” to that of an Iranian-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle built by the Iranian Aircraft Manufacturing Industries.

The report submitted to the Security Council clearly states that Iran has violated the UN arms embargo by not blocking the ballistic missile supplies to the Houthi militias. Tehran’s direct military involvement in Yemen thus stands exposed and confirmed.

houthi ballistic missile fired towards saudi arabia.
Houthi ballistic missile fired towards Riyahd.

“The [UN] panel has identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were introduced into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo [in 2015],” says the UN report, adding that “as a result, the panel finds that the Islamic Republic of Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of resolution 2216” banning arms sales to Yemen.

The UN panel is also probing whether Iranian “advisers” have been helping the Houthis in their war against the Saudi-led coalition forces which include Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well. The confirmation that the missile attacks have been facilitated by Iran puts a different shade on the conflict, currently confined to the Saudi-Yemeni border, which might explode into a conflagration engulfing the entire oil-rich region.

But Iran, as usual, is in denial on every front. It is claiming the mass protests are largely over. That has been countered by activists with videos posted on various social media showing the demonstrators attacking government properties and firebombing police stations.

Laughably, Iran has denied any nuclear ambitions, saying the programme only has peaceful aims. Iran also took umbrage over Trump coming down heavily on its programme to develop nuclear weapons, threatening unspecified retaliatory measures against the US.

With Trump approving one last and final waiver on the Iran sanctions last week and imposing sanctions on 14 Iranian entities and people, including the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the European Union is finding it increasingly difficult to stay the course on the nuclear deal with Iran.

Going by Tehran’s track record of being intransigent, defiant, arrogant and blustering when faced with the mirror of reality held up to it by the West, it is unlikely it would fall in line in the face of Trump’s demand that Iran must allow immediate inspections of all sites requested by international inspectors. And the Yemeni arms and missiles imbroglio hardly helps the matter.

Caught in a cleft, the ayatollahs are more likely to go in for some kind of misadventure in the misguided belief that might rouse its people’s nationalistic sentiments and silence the anti-regime slogans. But the brunt of the consequences will be borne by every country across the Arabian Gulf.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.