Mattis: Pressure on Iran will be diplomatic, not military


The U.S. intends to increase diplomatic pressure against Iran in response to evidence it said proved that Iran supplied the ballistic missiles fired on Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.

On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley presented the components of two Scud-class 37-foot-long missiles as evidence that Iran is violating the terms of its nuclear agreement.

Haley said the missiles were fired from Yemen and targeted King Khalid International Airport on Nov. 4 and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on July 22.

Defense intelligence officials who briefed the media about the components, on the condition that they not be identified, said they worked with the Saudi government to retrieve the missiles and that there were analysts were on the ground after the attacks to assist in gathering and identifying the components.

The missile parts were then reconstructed in the United States. On Thursday, the U.S. government used the missiles to press the case that Iran is violating the terms of a U.N. resolution that supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement former President Barack Obama’s administration signed with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.

U.S. intelligence agencies said that manufacturing marks inside the missiles tied the systems to Iranian defense industries, and that welding on the missile parts showed that they had been taken apart to transport them inside Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the launches. The Houthis are in a civil war with the Yemeni government and have been targeted by a Saudi-led and U.S.-supported air campaign.

While the Iran nuclear agreement itself does not specify ballistic missiles, that resolution called for Iran to also halt its ballistic missile weapons program.

Mattis said the missiles are part of a presentation that will continue to point out Iranian influence in the various conflicts in the region.

“Ambassador Haley was revealing evidence – physical evidence, debris – that we got our hands on that shows they have been providing ballistic missiles to the Houthis,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you find turmoil, you find Iran’s hand in it.”

The U.S. is not intending to respond with a greater military presence in the Middle East, however, Mattis said.

“Not militarily right now, no,” Mattis said. “It’s the reason Ambassador Haley was there and not one of our generals. This is a diplomatically led effort.”