In a presentation critics characterized as remarkably similar to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's case for the Iraq War, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stood before a missile fragment that she claimed bears Iran's "fingerprints" and asserted that the Iranian regime poses "a threat to the peace and security of the entire world."
"Make no mistake: What Nikki Haley is doing right now is laying the groundwork for a U.S.-Iran war on behalf of Saudi Arabia."
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council
"It's hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran's fingerprints all over it," Haley said in a speech delivered at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, located just outside the nation's capital. Haley went on to suggest that the fragment theatrically positioned behind her on wooden pallets was part of a missile Houthi rebels fired into Saudi Arabia from Yemen last month.
Citing a report by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Haley insisted that the evidence showing Iran provided the Houthis with the missile—and thus violated U.N. resolutions—is "irrefutable" and "undeniable."
In a statement, Iran fiercely denied Haley's allegations, saying they were "fabricated" with the goal of "cover[ing] up for the Saudi war crimes in Yemen," which have been carried out with "U.S. complicity."
In response to Haley's remarks, American analysts also called attention to the direct and protracted role the U.S. government has played, and continues to play, in the ongoing war and Yemen's humanitarian crisis. Spencer Ackerman, national security reporter for the Daily Beast, wrote: "Wonder when Iran holds its press conference to highlight all the American and British munitions the Saudis have used on hospitals, the Sanaa airport, etc."
Experts and some members of the international community also expressed doubts that Haley's "evidence" for Iran's connection to Houthi rebels in Yemen was as strong as she claimed. "Info I have is less clear," Olof Skoog, Sweden's ambassador to the U.N., said when asked about Haley's assertions.
Reza Marashi, research director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), pointed out that the U.N. report Haley cited as "devastating" proof against Iran has not even been completed, and thus cannot possibly amount to "irrefutable" evidence.
"As is the case with so many claims from the Trump administration, it appears that the facts are being chosen to fit a predetermined narrative or policy goal," Marashi concluded.
It was also "a hell of a day" for the U.S. to accuse Iran of arming Houthi rebels, some commentators observed, given new reports that American arms sent to Syrian opposition groups "frequently ended up in the hands" of ISIS fighters.
Today, Nikki Haley will give a bombastic speech at the UN accusing Iran of arming the Houthis.
Meanwhile, new report reveals ISIS was fighting with sophisticated American weaponry... https://t.co/yC8ST9Bw11
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) December 14, 2017
While Haley was vague about the ultimate implications of her case against Iran, many commentators argued that the dramatic presentation—which comes just a month before President Donald Trump is required to certify whether Iran is complying with the nuclear deal—indicates that the U.S. is slowly building up a rationale for war.
"Make no mistake: What Nikki Haley is doing right now is laying the groundwork for a U.S.-Iran war on behalf of Saudi Arabia," concluded Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.