Saudi Ambassador to India Saud Al-Sati has said that his country has “credible evidence” that Iran was behind the missile attack on Saudi capital Riyadh by Yemen-based Houthi rebels earlier this month even as Tehran has denied any role in this.
“We have credible evidence which proves that Iran is behind manufacturing of missiles used by terror groups and smuggling them into Yemen,” Al-Sati told IANS in an exclusive interview.
“Measures have been taken to address vulnerabilities in the current inspection procedures that led to the supply of weapons and missiles to Houthi militias,” he stated.
The Houthi rebels fired a long-range missile at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on the night of November 4, according to Houthi-controlled Saba news agency.
Saudi Arabia immediately blamed the Houthis’ allies, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and regional rival Iran.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, experts in military technology, after thorough examination of the debris, have confirmed the role of Iran in manufacturing missiles and smuggling these to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the Gulf kingdom.
Yemen has been in a state of political crisis since 2011 ending with the Houthis taking over the capital Sanaa and then, after ousting President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in a coup d’etat, declaring control over the country. This resulted in the Saudi-led Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen making a military intervention to prevent the collapse of Hadi’s government.
“The Houthi terrorist groups backed, funded and armed by Iran are continuing their crimes against the people of Yemen and its legitimate institutions,” Al-Sati said.
“In fact, the UNSC 2216 resolution had asked them to refrain from any provocation or threats to neighboring states, including acquiring surface-to-surface missiles, and stockpiling weapons in any border territory of a neighboring states; and to end the recruitment and use of children in their violent activities. None of this has stopped.”
Asked how the international community has reacted to the latest development, the Ambassador said that “Iran cannot lob missiles at Saudi cities and towns through its proxies (Houthis and Hezbollah) and expect us not to take steps to counteract the threat under the UN article 51” and added that many countries, including India, have condemned the attack.
India, in statement, while “strongly condemning” the attack, expressed deep concern “at any escalation of violence that threatens the safety and security of innocent people”. “We also reiterate our commitment to fight against all forms of terrorism and violence,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry statement said.
As for the escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Al-Sati said that Saudi Arabia has shown “utmost concern” for this.
“We have been sending aid to all Yemeni provinces, including areas controlled by the Houthi rebels, through King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre’s programmes,” he said.
“Overall, the kingdom has committed to provide more than $8.2 billion in humanitarian and developmental assistance to Yemen since April 2015. Despite hostilities, the Saudi led Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen has not interrupted the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews to Yemen.”
Though the coalition ordered all transport in and out of Yemen to prevent arms smuggling, the Saudi mission in the UN said on Monday that the Aden, Mocha and Mukalla ports were resuming operations as also Aden and Seyoun airports so that humanitarian food aid can come in for the affected civilian population.
With over three million expatriate Indians living in Saudi Arabia, the Ambassador said that his country appreciated India’s concern, but added: “As of now, we do not see any possible impact on the Indians working in our country due to these acts of terror perpetrated by Iran’s proxies. It is our duty to protect everyone within our borders including the Indians living there.”
Asked what role he expected the UN to play in the current scenario, he said that the the UN Security Council and its sanctions committee should take all necessary legal measures to hold Iran accountable for supplying the Houthi militias that it commands with missiles as it is a blatant violation of the UNSC Resolution 2216,. which prohibits nations from arming militias.
“This aggression also signals to the fact that the threat of such terrorist groups has become increasingly cross border and cross regional, which requires a united stand from the international community to fight and eradicate this threat caused by the Houthi terrorist group and its supporter,” Al-Sati said.
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])