The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday March 22nd regarding the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen. It heard a briefing from Jamal Benomar, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, describing Yemen’s descent towards a possible sectarian civil war. It then issued a presidential statement on behalf of all fifteen members that, in essence, told all parties to the conflict to behave, stop the violence, engage in peaceful political dialogue and obey past Security Council resolutions calling for the same thing. However, once again, the Security Council demonstrated its incapacity to deal truthfully and effectively with a crisis that has potentially far-reaching geopolitical significance.
The Security Council presidential statement ritualistically called on all member states to refrain from external interference in Yemen’s affairs and reaffirmed its readiness to take further measures against any party in case of non-implementation of its prior resolutions on Yemen. However, the Security Council did not call out Iran specifically for its funding, training and arming of its Shiite Houthi allies, whom have continued to occupy government institutions in Yemen’s capital, threatened the duly elected president and his ministers, and expanded militarily into other areas of Yemen outside of the capital.
It is not as if Iran’s disruptive intervention in Yemen to expand its own sphere of influence is a secret. Iranian senior officials openly brag about it.
In January, Iranian Brigadier General Baqir Zada said that the “Houthis victory in Yemen” represented “a historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.”
Also in January, Hojatoleslam (a Shiite clerical rank just below that of ayatollah) Ali Shirazi, representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, said, “Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon as a popular force like Basij (Iran’s militia). Similarly popular forces were also formed in Syria and Iraq, and today we are watching the formation of Ansarollah in Yemen.”
In February, Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, boasted: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”
The Security Council’s public silence regarding Iran’s admitted active role in destabilizing Yemen as part of fulfilling its hegemonic ambitions is as deafening as it is revealing. At this delicate point in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration and its allies do not want to do anything at the UN Security Council that might upset Iran and cause it to back away from a possible deal.
Consider the fact that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued her own statement condemning the Houthis, but that she too left out any mention of Iran. Ambassador Power said that “the Houthis’ actions – taken in close collaboration with former President Ali Abdullah Salih – have consistently undermined Yemen’s transition.” Ambassador Power referred to “a series of violent actions perpetrated by the Houthis since they chose to overrun Sana’a, take over government institutions, and attempt to govern by unilateral decree.” She added that “all parties must refrain from any further unilateral and offensive military actions.” Unmentioned was the identity of the state party fueling the Houthis’ perpetration of violence – the same terrorist sponsoring state that the Obama administration is feverishly negotiating with to reach a nuclear deal by the end of this month.
Only the Yemeni representative had the guts to call out the elephant in the room. He implored the Security Council to “curb the drums of war” propagated by the promotors of the coup, fuelled by “Iranian ambitions” in Yemen.
Closed consultations among Security Council members followed the public briefing. A senior Western delegate told me that Iran’s involvement in the Yemen conflict did come up during the closed consultations. However, there was evidently no discussion on what steps might be taken to enforce prior Security Council resolutions vis a vis Iran’s role. There are prior Security Council resolutions related to Yemen that could be used, including Resolution 2140 (2014), extended until at least next year. Resolution 2140 had set up a mechanism for identifying and sanctioning individuals and entities responsible for, among other things, “providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.”
Yet Iran has escaped even the slightest slap on the wrist for its continued shipment of arms to its Houthi allies in Yemen, which is going on as the UN continues to spin its wheels rather than act. According to a March 21, 2015 report by StrategyWorld.com, for example, “An Iranian freighter recently docked at Yemen’s second largest port (al Saleef) and unloaded 185 tons of weapons and military equipment.”
More disturbing is the fact that, aside from the specific resolution regarding Yemen, the Security Council already has a ready-made vehicle to enforce against Iran but is ignoring it. Iran is openly violating a 2007 UN Security Council resolution that imposed an embargo on arms exports from Iran along with other constraints on Iranian arms imports. This and other resolutions, which Iran is seeking to have rescinded as quickly as possible as part of a negotiated nuclear deal, were passed as the foundation for declaring Iran’s nuclear program to be illegal and punishing Iran for its continued intransigence.
Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) stated that “Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”
In a statement after the vote on that 2007 resolution, the U.S. representative reminded the world of “Iran’s continued well-known role as one of the world’s leading State sponsors of terrorism.”
The Iranian regime has not changed its stripes. In fact, it has gotten even worse. By its own admission, it is actively expanding its reach in the Middle East and beyond, and it is using more terrorist proxies on the Hezbollah model. Yet the Obama administration, in its attempt to whitewash Iran’s association with terrorism, actually removed Iran from the list of terrorist threats in the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report published on February 26, 2015.
The Obama administration is also reportedly considering offering Iran a phased lifting of the UN sanctions as Iran complies with specified milestones. Not that it makes any real difference, given Iran’s flouting of Resolution 1747 and other Security Council resolutions related to its nuclear program, but lifting of the UN sanctions could potentially spill over into relaxing the embargo on Iran’s export of arms. And that would give Iran even more of a sense of international legitimacy in arming its proxies such as the Houthis.
The French, who are participating in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, are not in such a hurry to compromise on the UN sanctions. They want the Iranians to come clean on the past work they have done on nuclear warhead development before UN sanctions can begin being lifted. The Iranians are reportedly refusing to cooperate, as they continue to stonewall UN inspectors whom have been seeking information on Iran’s past military dimensions of their nuclear program. U.S. diplomats are for all intents and purposes running interference for Iran, trying to convince France not to worry so much about any past Iranian work on nuclear warhead development right now. In their zeal for a deal, Obama’s negotiators are willing to overlook any evidence of Iranian deception and stonewalling.
The UN Security Council’s inaction against Iran regarding its blatant arming, training and funding of the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of a prior Security Council resolution, is no accident. It is in keeping with the Obama administration’s own reluctance to offend Iran on any issue that might get in the way of completing a nuclear deal with the pre-eminent global state sponsor of jihadist terrorism.