Display of illegally exported Iranian arms aims to stir proxy war support
President Trump’s point man on curbing Iranian aggression offered fresh evidence Thursday that Tehran is violating a United Nations ban on weapons exports by sending rockets and other military equipment to proxies around the Middle East, and warned that the U.S. is prepared to use force to curtail such activity.
Standing before a dramatic backdrop of Iranian weaponry that the U.S. says was captured from Tehran-backed militants in Yemen, Bahrain and Afghanistan, Brian Hook, State Department special representative for Iran, said the Islamic republic has been shaping events across the region for nearly four decades through “illegal weapons transfers, proxies and terror — a deadly trifecta.”
Among the equipment on display were anti-tank weapons, unmanned aircraft, small arms and other advanced weaponry captured across the region. The U.S. accuses Iran of arming proxies that include Yemen’s Houthi rebels, militants in Bahrain and Afghanistan’s Taliban.
Mr. Hook said the Trump administration’s policy remains open to negotiations with Iran but stressed that the U.S. “will not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened.”
The weaponry was displayed at Bolling Air Force Base just a day after the Senate, including more than a dozen Republicans, delivered a rebuke to the administration with a vote signaling growing opposition to U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen’s Houthis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued before Wednesday’s vote that Iran’s meddling in the Yemen war was a prime reason the U.S. had to remain engaged in the fight.
Mr. Hook said the materiel on display solidifies the Trump administration’s case that Iran is running an increasingly dangerous weapons proliferation program in the Middle East.
“The tools of Tehran’s foreign policy are here before you today,” he told reporters in front of what he claimed was an Iranian Sayyad 2C surface-to-air missile captured by Saudi Arabian forces from Houthi forces in Yemen.
“This is not foreign policy; this is statesponsored revolutionary terrorism,” Mr. Hook said. “This missile was designed and manufactured in Iran, and the writing in Farsi on its side translates as ‘the hunter missile.’ The conspicuous Farsi markings is Iran’s way of saying they don’t mind being caught violating U.N. resolutions.”
The display was the latest in the administration’s push to draw international attention to what they say are Iranian violations of U.N. resolutions — and to justify Mr. Trump’s decision to renounce the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran and reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran and nations that do business with it.
U.S. officials say the weapons clearly link Tehran to militant groups operating in both nations.
“The new weapons we are disclosing today illustrate the scale of Iran’s destructive role across the region,” said Mr. Hook. “The same kind of [weapons] here today could tomorrow land in a public market in Kabul or an international airport.”