Dis­play of il­le­gally ex­ported Ira­nian arms aims to stir proxy war sup­port

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY CARLO MUÑOZ AND GUY TAY­LOR

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.”

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