The finger-pointing, following the launch of a missile from inside Yemen that targeted the international airport in Riyadh last week, continues as U.S. military officials have come out in support of Saudi claims that the missile originated with Iran.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, told reporters: “What we have seen, clearly from the results of the ballistic missile attacks, that there have been Iranian markings on those missiles, that’s been demonstrated… To me that connects the dots to Iran in terms of who’s providing those missiles and that capability.”
The comments support what Saudi Arabia has long said about Iran’s support for Houthi rebels engaged in combat with the Kingdom’s military coalition in Yemen; it also comes as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to escalate. The diplomatic conflict between the two included a strange episode last weekend following the controversial resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who remains in Saudi Arabia amid claims he is there against his will. Some observers speculate Hariri was forced to resign by Saudi overseers for not taking a hard enough stance to curb Iranian influence within Lebanon.
The United States has maintained its position that Iran is heavily invested in the war in Yemen, maintaining a naval blockade to keep “illegal” weapons from being imported into the war-ravaged country. A missile was fired at the USS Mason last year in the Red Sea, indicating that the conflict has the potential to dramatically spill over into a broader regional war.
Iran disputes Saudi and U.S. claims that they manufactured the missile despite any evidence of “Iranian markings” that the U.S. has pointed to. The missile type, believed to be a Burkan 2-H, is a missile more technically advanced than those initially possessed by Yemen and the Houthi rebels. Iran has said the missile could have been constructed inside Yemen.
U.S. military officials have been warning of Iranian influence in Yemen for months, but no apparent steps have been taken to halt their activities.
Earlier this year, the United Nations reported that the war in Yemen has killed over 10,000 people and wounded four times that many.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force