WASHINGTON -- The United States has concrete evidence that Iran was supplying weaponry to the Huthi rebels in Yemen, in violation of United Nations sanctions, the U.S. ambassador to the world body has charged.
At a December 14 news conference held at a Washington-area military warehouse where U.S. defense officials put weapons fragments on display, Nikki Haley also said "the evidence was undeniable."
"The United States is taking a new approach to Iran by focusing on all of the regime's destabilizing behavior. That means we are not just focused on a nuclear program. We are also taking a hard look at Iran's ballistic-missile program, its arms exports, and its support for terrorists, proxy fighters, and dictators," she told reporters.
The weaponry on display included remains of what the U.S. officials said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile that was fired from Yemen last month at the international airport outside Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh. Other equipment on display included a drone and an antitank weapon that officials said was recovered in Yemen by Saudi forces.
"They might as well have had 'Made in Iran' stickers on them," Haley said, noting that one of the missile fragments bore the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under U.S. sanctions, while other fragments displayed unique characteristics found only on Iranian missiles.
"Only Iran makes this missile. They have not given it to anybody else" but the Huthis, Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said.
The United Nations resolution passed in connection with the landmark nuclear deal prohibited Tehran from supplying, selling, or transferring weapons unless the Security Council approved it. A separate UN resolution bans the supply of any weapons to the Huthi rebel leader in Yemen.
Tehran, which views Saudi Arabia as an enemy and rival for power in the Middle East, has long denied accusations that it was supplying weapons, and called Haley's claim about the November 4 missile attack "irresponsible, provocative, and destructive."
"These accusations seek also to cover up for the Saudi war crimes in Yemen, with the U.S. complicity, and divert international and regional attention from the stalemate war of aggression against the Yemenis," a statement released by Iran's mission to the United Nations said.
Saudi-led forces back the Yemeni government, and have been fighting the Huthis in Yemen's ongoing civil war for more than two years. Saudi Arabia is one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East and Washington is a major supplier of weaponry to the Saudi military.
The announcement came amid reports that a UN investigation into whether Iran supplied the two missiles Yemeni rebels fired at Saudi Arabia this year reached no firm conclusions.
All of the weapons showcased by Haley were provided to the United States by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said.
Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington said it welcomed the "U.S. condemnation of Iran's hostile activities that support and arm terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Huthi terrorist militias."
Israel's ambassador also applauded the announcement.
But a spokesman for Yemen's Huthi rebels dismissed it as an attempt by the United States to divert attention away from U.S. President Donald Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which was widely condemned in the Arab world.
"After three years of war, America suddenly finds evidence that Iran supports the Huthis," Abdel-Malek al-Ejri said on Twitter.
"The story is clear. They want to give Arabs a story to divert their attention from Jerusalem."
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, on Twitter, said Haley's claims reminded him of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's claim in 2003 that the United States had conclusive evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons were found after the United States invaded the country.
The U.S. announcement came amid reports that a UN investigation into whether Iran supplied the two missiles Yemeni rebels fired at Saudi Arabia this year reached no firm conclusions.
The Associated Press and Agence France-Press have reported that UN officials examined debris from the missiles and said it pointed to a "common origin," but they could not conclude that they came from an Iranian supplier.