- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Trump administration offered what it called “concrete evidence” Thursday of Iranian complicity in terrorist attacks, including a missile said to have been sent from the Islamic republic to rebels in Yemen, then used in last month’s attack on the main civilian airport in Saudi Arabia.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the missile was just one piece of an array of evidence of illegal Iranian behavior that the American government is making public while the administration seeks to further isolate the government in Tehran.

The missile and other weapons were being put on display at a warehouse in Washington so members of Congress, the press and representatives of foreign governments could inspect them and hopefully reach the same conclusion as President Trump that Iran is violating U.N. resolutions.

“Now they actually see that the president was right. Now they see that, yes, there are problems,” said Mrs. Haley, standing in front of the missile she said bore unmistakable markings of Iranian origin.

The missile was fired at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh early last month but was intercepted before it struck the airport. Saudi officials blamed Houthi rebels in Yemen for firing the weapon and at the time said it was a Yemeni-made missile.

But Mrs. Haley said the markings and design of the missile proved conclusively that it was Iranian-made and sent to the rebels.

“The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had ‘Made in Iran‘ stickers,” she said.

Iran called the evidence fabricated and said it was a distraction from U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

Tehran-based Fars News Agency said the U.N. investigated the airport attack and didn’t reach any conclusion connecting it to Iran. The news report quoted Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s envoy to the U.N., as saying the U.S. was trying to provoke its opponents.

“The U.S. government has an agenda and is constantly at work to deceive the public into believing the cases they put together to advance it,” Mr. Khoshroo said, according to Fars.

Putting the missile and other weapons fragments on display was a striking move that seemed designed to force other countries to confront Iran as a malicious actor in the Middle East. Mrs. Haley said evidence of Tehran’s meddling can also be found in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

“It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it,” she said.

While Thursday’s display involved conventional weapons, it comes as the Trump administration is attempting to build support for revisiting the 2015 nuclear deal that the Tehran government cut with President Obama and other major powers.

Mr. Trump in October decertified Iran’s compliance with that 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, triggering a 60-day window for Congress to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. But that 60-day period passed this week without action, and the White House said it wasn’t a firm deadline.

“The administration continues to make encouraging progress with Congress to fix the U.S.-Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday. “There was actually no deadline to act by this week, as the administration did not ask that Congress introduce legislation to reimpose [nuclear agreement]-related sanctions.”

Defenders of the Iran nuclear deal accused Mrs. Haley of trying to tarnish the agreement by conflating it with extraneous matters. Even if the U.S. evidence is real, they said, it shouldn’t affect the Obama deal, which covered only nuclear energy and weapons development, not conventional weapons or support for terrorism.

Reza Marashi, research director for the National Iranian American Council, said that if Iran is supplying weapons it should stop. But he said the same prohibition should apply to the U.S. in the wake of reports that American weapons sent to aid Syrian rebels ended up in the hands of the Islamic State group.

Iran’s defenders also compared Mrs. Haley’s speech to the 2003 speech to the United Nations by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, making a case that Iraq’s nuclear program was still operational. After the American invasion, it became clear that the program had been halted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday posted photos on Twitter of Mrs. Haley and Mr. Powell side by side.

“When I was based at the U.N., I saw this show and what it begat,” Mr. Zarif said in his tweet.

At pains to have the rest of the world believe the American case, Mrs. Haley said evidence would be kept at a warehouse at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington for inspection.

Mrs. Haley said U.N. Resolution 2231 should have banned Iran from exporting missiles. The weapons behind her, she said, were proof that the resolution was broken.

She said the goal is to build international support for isolating Iran and to have Congress revisit American policy toward Tehran.

Mrs. Haley said representatives from some other countries have already been to the warehouse at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling to review the evidence and that others will be sending analysts in the coming days.

“This is not just the U.S. This is our partners coming together saying, ‘Enough is enough. This is the proof, and now we’re going to show it to the international community,’” she said.

She said while all the focus in the past few years has been on Iran’s nuclear program, the country has been doing even more to destabilize the Middle East in other ways, including supporting the rebels in Yemen and meddling in other hot spots.

Mrs. Haley said other countries were so worried about trying to keep Mr. Trump and Iran tied to the Obama-era nuclear deal that they lost focus on those other activities.

Iran has sought to build a “Shiite crescent” across the Middle East, trying to combat Sunni Arab power with a sphere of control reaching into Lebanon.

With the Islamic State waning, Iran is also poised to have outsized influence in Syria, where the Tehran regime has invested heavily.

Dave Boyer and Guy Taylor contributed to this report.

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