The US and Saudi Arabia made a joint appeal to the UN Security Council to extend the 13-year-old arms embargo on Iran. The embargo is set to expire under conditions agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal, an agreement the US pulled out of in 2018.
US envoy to Iran Brian Hook held a press conference in Riyadh on Monday with Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs. “Despite the embargo, Iran seeks to provide weapons to terrorist groups, so what will happen if the embargo is lifted? Iran will become more ferocious and aggressive,” Saudi Minister Adel al-Jubei told reporters.
US and Saudi officials often accuse Tehran of arming the Houthis in Yemen, and Jubei said Iranian weapons were recently seized off the coast of Yemen. While Iran openly gives the Houthis political support, they deny arming the Zaydi Shia group.
The Houthis began launching successful drone and missile strikes deep inside Saudi territory last year. At the conference, Hook said the Houthis launched nearly 400 missiles and rockets into Saudi Arabia. The most successful was a September 2019 attack that severely impacted Saudi oil production. The attack was blamed on Iran by both US and Saudi officials, but no evidence ever corroborated this claim.
While it is possible Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons, or at the very least blueprints and advice on how to build them, it is nothing compared to the US support for the Saudi-led coalition. The US remains the largest supplier of weapons in the Gulf region, having recently announced the sale of $478 million in precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia.
Reports have demonstrated that some US weapons and military equipment end up in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen. The US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen regularly targets civilian infrastructure.