On Wednesday President Donald Trump’s national security adviser former general Mike Flynn made a cameo at the White House’s press briefing to issue a stern rebuke of Iran.
“Recent Iranian actions involving a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behaviour across the entire Middle East,” said Flynn, referring to Monday’s Houthi attack that killed two on a Saudi ship.
Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition of Gulf States involved in bombing Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. While the Saudis support the internationally recognised government of Yemen, they stand accused of war crimes for their massive air campaign in Yemen.
Flynn went on to say that Iran had violated the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from designing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, an EU spokesman speaking at the UN Security Council on Tuesday said that Iran’s test did not violate the resolution.
Experts have told Business Insider that Iran’s missile launches certainly violate the spirit of the resolution, but the language of the resolution remains ambiguous on missile testing.
The fact that no definite criteria exist for differentiating conventional ballistic missiles from nuclear-capable ones further muddles the issue of whether or not Iran violated the resolution.
Flynn then pointed to the series of incidents at sea where Iranian naval vessels have harassed US ships. Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen have also attacked ships from the US and Saudi Arabia. “In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten US friends and allies in the region,” said Flynn.
Flynn criticised the Obama administration’s handling of Iran, saying that Trump found Obama’s moves “weak and ineffective.”
Flynn came to a forceful yet vague conclusion: “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
Flynn’s comments echo what Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy Commander Lawrence Brennan told Business Insider on Monday. Essentially, the Houthi attack on a Saudi ship using suicide boats may change the calculus for the US Navy operating in the region.
“This attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement (ROE) in nearby waters,” said Brennan, who pointed out that Iranian ships frequently harass and sail very closely to US Navy ships.
Brennan suggested that in light of the recent suicide boat attacks, the US Navy should now consider shooting Iranian or hostile vessels that get too close.
“The overarching duty of self-defence mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient ‘bubble’ to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats,” said Brennan in an email to Business Insider.
This suggestion fits in line with Trump’s expressed intention to deal with Iran more forcefully.
“With Iran,” Trump said while campaigning in Florida, “when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
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