In reference to the UN arms embargo imposed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the panel’s annual report found conclusively that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of resolution 2216 (2015).”
While U.S. and European diplomats were meeting on the sidelines of the February 16-18 Munich Security Conference, the report went public. These diplomats were
attempting to find ways to curb Iran’s destabilizing activities and convince the Trump administration to extend U.S. sanctions waivers that will expire on May 12.
The January 26th report specifically explained why Tehran is deemed noncompliant, “The Islamic Republic of Iran…failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of Borkan-2H short-range ballistic missiles, field storage tanks for liquid bipropellant oxidizer for missiles and Ababil-T (Qasef-1) unmanned aerial vehicles to the then Houthi-Saleh alliance…The Panel has now identified strong indicators of the supply of arms-related material manufactured in, or emanating from, the Islamic Republic of Iran subsequent to the establishment of the targeted arms embargo on 14 April 2015, particularly in the area of short-range ballistic missile technology and unmanned aerial vehicles.”
The UN’s findings against Iran break down into three main categories, outlined below:
• Provision of extended-range ballistic missiles. UN experts visited Saudi Arabia in November and December to inspect the remnants of four missiles launched at the kingdom from Yemen (three fired at Riyadh on May 19, November 4, and December 19, and one fired at Yanbu on July 22). The delegation concluded that the “internal design features, external characteristics and dimensions [of the remnants] are consistent with those of the Iranian designed and manufactured Qiam-1 missile. This means that they were almost certainly produced by the same manufacturer.” Specifically, the wreckage had markings consistent with systems made by Iran’s Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group (SBIG). The UN further concluded that the weapon type smuggled from Iran to the Houthis was “not a Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, but a derived lighter version, designed specifically by the manufacturers of the Qiam-1 to extend the range to over 1,000 km by reducing weight.” In other words, Iran designed a variant with the express goal of enabling the Houthis to hit Riyadh and other cities up to 1,000 kilometers from their areas of control.
• Provision of missile fuel equipment. Tehran was also found in noncompliance with the embargo because components manufactured or procured by Iranian firms were found inside liquid bipropellant storage tanks intercepted en route to the Houthis. These tanks support the reprocessing of inhibited red fuming nitric acid, the oxidizer for the bipropellant used in short-range ballistic missiles. The UN panel noted that two of the components were manufactured in Iran, while three others were supplied to Iran by foreign manufacturers, “one of which was paid for through a European bank account.”
• Provision of Qasef-1 unmanned aerial vehicles. UN experts also reported that a number of complete Qasef-1 UAVs and related components recovered in Yemen were “virtually identical in design, dimensions and capability to that of the Ababil-T, manufactured by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries.” Based on the design of the UAVs and the tracing of component parts, the panel concluded that the material necessary to assemble the Qasef-1s “emanated from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The panel clarified that “at least two components of the system were supplied to [Iran] after the implementation of the targeted arms embargo…The route for the funding of one of the components used a third party broker, and an intermediary account in a third country. This is indicative of a deliberate attempt to disguise the final destination of the components.”
The panel will continue to investigate other alleged instances of Iranian arms smuggling to Yemen.
French president Emmanuel Macron stated on February 13th, that by supplying missiles to Syria and Yemen, Iran posed a threat to regional allies. He called for Iran to be put “under surveillance over its ballistic missiles” and suggested new sanctions on the country’s ballistic missile program.
On January 4, the Treasury Department sanctioned five SBIG subsidiaries, including one already designated by the EU. As well, in July of 2017, the U.S. designated six SHIG subsidiaries responsible for manufacturing missile airframes and liquid propellant ballistic missile engines, as well as guidance and control systems of the same type found among the inspected wreckage in Saudi Arabia.
Congress also adopted the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in August. Other U.S. actions have drawn attention to Iran’s missile cooperation with North Korea and its proliferation efforts in Syria.
New sanctions may not disrupt the flow of Iranian missiles to Yemen. The UN report recommended further action, such as placing a permanent UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism presence at Hodeida port.
Meanwhile, bringing EU sanctions in closer alignment with Washington’s is important. It will send a message to Iran, that Europe is willing to work with the Trump administration in order to preserve the nuclear deal.