Skip to main content

Intel: Missiles that struck Saudi Arabia last year 'of Iranian origin,' UN says

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the drones and cruise missiles that struck Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries and an international airport last year came from Iran.
Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik displays remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed - RC152BBF8970

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in a report that the drones and cruise missiles that struck Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries and an international airport last year came from Iran.

The secretary general said UN experts inspected weapons debris collected at the sites of the September 2019 attack on Aramco’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, as well as the Houthi-claimed June and August strikes at Abha International Airport and a strike on the Afif oil facility in May.

“The Secretariat assesses that the cruise missiles and/or parts thereof used in the four attacks are of Iranian origin,” Guterres said in a document first reported by Reuters on Thursday.

Guterres also said two shipments of weapons seized by the US Navy off the coast of Yemen — one in November 2019 and another in February of this year — included items “identical or similar” to those found at the sites of the attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The UN head said in the report that some of the items had been transferred to Iran between 2016 and 2018, “in a manner inconsistent” with Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations told Reuters took issue with the report, saying it has “serious flaws, inaccuracies and discrepancies.”

Why it matters: The United States has long accused Iran of being behind the attacks on Saudi Arabia and of providing missile technology to Houthi rebels in Yemen, despite Tehran’s denials. While Guterres’ report suggests that this could be the case, he cautioned all sides to “avoid provocative rhetoric and actions.”

The Trump administration is calling on the UN Security Council to renew its arms embargo on Iran and is threatening to restore UN sanctions on Iran if the embargo is not renewed. Security Council Resolution 2231 allows for the restoration of UN sanctions if Iran is seen as breaching its agreements under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The Trump administration is engaged in what it calls a “maximum pressure” campaign, built around economic sanctions, to coerce Tehran to pull back its involvement in regional politics and military affairs.

What’s Next: Russia and China have said they oppose the restoration of the arms embargo, and may seek to block it, thus pushing Washington to move to restore UN sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made the case that the Trump administration has no right to restore the UN sanctions on Iran since the United States walked out of the JCPOA in 2018.

Know more: Bryant Harris explores how the Trump administration’s sanctions have affected Iran’s humanitarian trade.

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial