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Iran trying to prolong Yemen civil war to project power: US

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

The United States on Thursday accused Iran of trying to prolong Yemen's civil war to project its power.

"Iran is trying to prolong Yemen's civil war to project power. Iran should follow the calls of its own people and end its involvement in Yemen. Yemeni people have suffered far too long, and Iran has no legitimate interest in Yemen," State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told reporters here.

At a conference, he said that on November 25, a US warship conducted a flag verification boarding in international waters off the coast of Yemen. "We interdicted a significant hoard of weapons and missile parts, evidently of Iranian origin," he said.

Displaying pictures, Hook said the seizure included sophisticated weapons, components of anti-ship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-tank missiles.

The vessel reportedly was heading to Yemen to deliver these weapons, he said, adding the weapon components comprise the most sophisticated weapons seized by the US Navy to date during the Yemen conflict.

"This discovery is yet more proof of Iran's efforts to inflame conflicts in the region by proliferating deadly weapons to its proxies. It is also further evidence of how Iran repeatedly violates the UN arms embargo, which has been in place for over a decade," Hook said.

Recalling that the Houthis proposed a cessation of missile and air attacks with Saudi Arabia just days after the Iranians struck Saudi oil installations on September 14, he said the Houthis de-escalation proposal, which the Saudis are responding to, shows that Iran clearly does not speak for the Houthis nor have the best interests of the Yemeni people at heart.

Hook also announced that the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program is offering up to USD15 million for information on the financial activities, networks, and associates of Abdul Reza Shahlai.

Shahlai, a Yemen-based high-ranking commander of the IRGC's Quds force, has a long history of attacks against Americans and its allies globally. He planned multiple assassinations of coalition forces in Iraq, provided weapons and explosives to violent Shia extremist groups, and planned the January 20, 2007 attack in Karbala that killed five American soldiers and wounded three others, he said.

In 2011, Shahlai funded and directed a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir. This would have been carried out in a restaurant in Georgetown, he said.

Shahlai also aimed to carry out follow-on attacks in the United States and elsewhere. Had this scheme succeeded, as many as 200 innocent civilians in the United States could have been killed, he said.

"Given Shahlai's track record of terrorism and destabilization in Iraq, we remain gravely concerned by his presence in Yemen and potential role in providing advanced weaponry of the kind that we have interdicted to the Houthis," Hook said.

"Iranian UAVs, missiles, and explosive boats have been used by the Houthis to threaten key civilian and economic interests and otherwise wreak havoc in the region," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, December 06 2019. 07:20 IST