US Ambassador Nikki Halley’s speech on alleged Iranian violations was even less convincing than Colin Powell’s fraudulent UN presentation on Iraqi WMDs, says Trita Parsi
AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. The Trump administration continues its campaign against Iran. On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to the UN stood in front of what she said were parts of Iranian-made missiles, including one she claimed that was recently fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen into Saudi Arabia.
NIKKI HALEY: These are the recovered pieces of a missile fired by Houthi militants from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The missile’s intended target was a civilian airport in Riyadh, through which tens of thousands of passengers travel each day. I repeat: The missile was used to attack an international civilian airport in a G20 country. Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin. That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what Iran is actively supporting.
AARON MATÉ: Haley also claimed that a UN panel has concluded that Iran has supplied the Houthis with missiles. But the UN has reached no such conclusions. All of this prompted Iran’s foreign minister to tweet out a photo comparing Haley’s speech to Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN, making the phony case for war on Iraq.
Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian American Council and author of “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” Trita, welcome. My only question here is whether the comparison to Colin Powell is unfair because Colin Powell had a vial and some slides. Nikki Haley came out with missile fragments, this elaborate display, claiming that Iran was supplying these weapons to the Houthis. What did you make of what she said yesterday?
TRITA PARSI: Well, if we continue on the comparison, I think Colin Powell was a little bit more convincing, as he was selling a lie. I think the media reaction to Nikki Haley has been quite clear. People are very skeptical. It’s so absurd, because at least Colin Powell tried to make a believable lie. In this case, she is claiming that the UN secretary general has come to a conclusion, which he explicitly says he has not come to that conclusion. Moreover, there was one area of that that was very reminiscent of the Bush era effort to sell a lie. That’s where she says “Imagine if this missile had hit Dulles Airport.” Well, these missiles cannot reach Dulles Airport. That’s not a real reality, but she’s trying to paint a completely unrealistic picture of fear in the minds of the American people in order to convince them to go to war.
Particularly, when she says Dulles Airport, she’s trying to say “Look, this is targeting civilians.” Reality is, there are no civilian Saudis that have died in this horrible conflict. There’s hundreds of thousands and thousands of civilians Yemenis who have died as a result of the bombing that Saudi Arabia is engaging in, which the United States is supporting and enabling. It was a degree of inaccuracy and deliberate deceit that I think only Nikki Haley, with the exception of Donald Trump, has managed to achieve in the Trump administration.
AARON MATÉ: That point is so key, because you have Nikki Haley standing in front of a missile, that whether or not it came from Iran, it killed nobody, caused no casualties. Meanwhile, her government is supplying the missiles to Saudi Arabia that has killed tens of thousands of people, but yet there is no mention of that. Let’s talk, though, about — let’s take the case at face value in terms of this accusation that Iran’s supplying these weapons to the Houthis. It just strikes me as pretty implausible, since the country is under a Saudi-led, U.S.-enforced air and sea blockade.
TRITA PARSI: The U.S. military says that the Iranians may have other ways of getting the thing in there. I think it’s important to recognize that there’s no evidence that has been presented at this point. The components inside of that missile — apparently, some components were Iranian, but some components were American as well, but the larger picture is this. The Iranians, I think, are in some ways providing some military support, not just advisers, to the Houthis, and I think that’s problematic, because what we need in the region, and in Yemen in particular, is to have all sides stop arming the fighting parties, but who is doing most of that arming?
The United States is selling $60 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The British are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia as well. They are the ones that are enforcing a siege, starving the people of Yemen, and carpet bombing that country. If one missile that didn’t kill anyone potentially has an Iranian component in it, then what does that say about all of the weapons and the munitions that currently are being used by the Saudis, that are made and sold by the United States, and we have the receipts for them?
AARON MATÉ: Let’s go to more of what Nikki Haley said. I want to play another clip from her where she talked about- The Iran nuclear deal has emboldened the Iranian government, she said, to cause mischief throughout the region.
NIKKI HALEY: The nuclear deal has done nothing to moderate the regime’s conduct in other areas. Aid from Iran’s revolutionary guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing. Its ballistic missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. 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.
AARON MATÉ: That’s Nikki Haley yesterday saying that Iran’s fingerprints are all over conflict zones and terror groups across the Middle East. Trita, I thought the irony of this was so funny, because on the same day yesterday as Nikki Haley said this, there was a report in USA Today, the latest to confirm that U.S. weapons in Syria wound up in the hands of ISIS.
TRITA PARSI: Indeed, when it comes to who is doing the destabilizing, and where are all the weapons coming from that are currently being used in the Middle East, the vast majority is coming from the West and from the United States. That does not mean that the Iranians necessarily are a constructive player, and I think again I want to emphasize, it is critical to make sure no one is arming the fighting parties in Yemen. This war has gone on for two years now, more than two years, and as long as more weapons are coming in, it’s going to be able to sustain itself.
Now, of course, Yemen had a tremendous amount of weapons even before the civil war broke out, so it’s not necessarily just coming from the outside, but I think it’s also important to keep in mind that when she’s saying the nuclear deal has not changed Iran’s behavior elsewhere, and to a certain extent that might be true, but it’s also irrelevant, because the nuclear deal has also not done anything to affect global warming, it has done nothing to reduce poverty in Africa, and a whole set of other issues, which it did not address. The nuclear deal was not addressing the other policies of Iran or the other policies of the United States. To what extent has the nuclear deal moderated America’s foreign policy in the Middle East?
On the contrary, we’re seeing that the United States is selling more weapons to the region now than it was before, and it is giving a green light to a whole set of different things that the Saudi regime is currently doing, that the Obama administration gave sometimes a green light to, but often times actually refused to support. We’ve seen the United States’ policy in the region becoming more radical, more inconsistent, but that’s not a result of the nuclear deal. This obsession of the Trump administration to try and blame everything on the nuclear deal is really falling flat.
AARON MATÉ: Trita, you know, you pointed this out pretty tirelessly, that if the goal is to change Iran’s behavior, whatever that is, there is a history of what works, and that history, you said, is diplomacy. The Iran nuclear deal, that worked. That changed a very critical policy of nuclear development. Also, after 9/11, the U.S. and Iran worked together against the Taliban.
TRITA PARSI: Surely, when there has been diplomacy that has been pursued with positive intent, that’s the only time we’ve seen the West being able to change a core Iranian policy in a significant way. If the concern really was ballistic missiles, the Trump administration should clearly see what has worked and what has not worked.
The fact that they’re choosing something that hasn’t worked, the fact that some of the surroundings of what was happening yesterday. The State Department did not have Nikki Haley’s briefing on their schedule, which kind of sent the signal that she’s doing this on her own, and there’s been plenty of speculation that she’s doing this partly because of her desire to continue to raise money from certain individuals who have been supportive of her in the past, and those individuals, such as Sheldon Adelson, are very much in favor and completely unapologetic about the fact that they support and seek to see a war between the United States and Iran.
AARON MATÉ: We’ll leave it there. Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, author of the book “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” Trita, thank you.
TRITA PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.
AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.