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Mattis Emphasizes 'Diplomatically-Led Effort' In Dealing With Iran

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (file photo)
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (file photo)

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Washington will deal with Iran through a "diplomatically-led effort," a day after a top U.S. diplomat said Tehran was supplying weapons to the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said there was concrete evidence that Iran was supplying arms to the Huthi rebels, in violation of UN sanctions, during a December 14 news conference held at a Washington-area military warehouse where U.S. defense officials put weapons fragments on display.

Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on December 15 that such evidence did not warrant an expanded military response from Washington.

"Not militarily right now, no," Mattis said. "It’s the reason Ambassador Haley was there and not one of our generals."

Mattis said Haley's presentation was part of a "diplomatically-led effort" to reveal Tehran's hand in various conflicts in the Middle East.

"Ambassador Haley was revealing evidence -- physical evidence, debris -- that we got our hands on that shows they have been providing ballistic missiles to the Huthis," Mattis said. "Everywhere you find turmoil, you find Iran’s hand in it."

Mattis condemned Tehran for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

"To expose what they are doing is healthy for the international community for their awareness of what's going on there," Mattis said.

Haley has also claimed that missiles fired on November 4 from Yemen toward an airport in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, had been made in Iran.

UN officials who examined debris from the missiles have said they could not conclude that they came from an Iranian supplier.

The UN resolution passed in connection with the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal prohibited Tehran from supplying, selling, or transferring weapons unless the Security Council approved it. A separate UN resolution bans the supply of any weapons to the Huthi rebel leader in Yemen.

Tehran, which views Saudi Arabia as an enemy and rival for power in the Middle East, has long denied accusations that it was supplying weapons.

With reporting by AFP and Military Times