State Department spokesman John Kirby noted that the Houthi rebels in Yemen use missiles provided by Iran during Tuesday’s briefing.
Asked by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee about the Saudi-led airstrike that hit a funeral in Yemen, Kirby said the Saudis themselves were going to investigate whether they had erred.
"I think it’s also important to remember that in the Saudis’ case … their cities, their citizens are under very real, darn-near daily threat from missiles being launched on the Yemeni side of their border, missiles that are provided by Iran to the Houthi rebels," Kirby said. "So there is a—there is this pressing requirement for self-defense to them right across the border that certainly has driven much of their military activity in Yemen in the past."
Iran-aligned Houthi rebels fired missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer on two occasions this week, leading to retaliatory U.S. cruise missile strikes that knocked out three coastal radar sites in Yemeni areas controlled by the Houthis.
President Obama expressed hope in 2014 that nuclear deal negotiations with Iran might inspire it to break out of its isolation from the rest of the civilized world.
"They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of–inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody," he said.
MATT LEE: Okay. Then this is Syria-related, but it also has to do with Yemen. Over the weekend you saw there was this airstrike on a funeral by the Saudi-led coalition, and I’m just wondering: Does the Administration see any difference between this kind of thing and what you accuse the Russians and the Syrians and the Iranians of doing in Syria, particularly Aleppo?
JOHN KIRBY: Well, yeah, I think there are some differences.
LEE: Other than that you support the Saudi coalition and don’t support the Syrians and Russians, what are the other differences?
KIRBY: Well, look, there’s a couple of things, Matt. The strike over the weekend is being investigated, and the Saudis publicly said that they were going to investigate this as–for the potential of it being, in fact, wrongly implemented and wrongly executed. I haven’t seen a single case in Syria where the regime or the Russian military, after bombing civilian targets deliberately and indiscriminately, said, "Yeah, we’re going to look into that. We’re not sure that we did that right. We’re going to take a look at it." Not once. Not once. But the Saudis are and they’re willing to admit that this could have been a mistake and that they’re going to–and they’re going to investigate that. And they’ve done that in the past.
So it is different. I think it’s also important to remember that in the Saudis’ case, they have–they are–their cities, their citizens are under very real, darn-near daily threat from missiles being launched on the Yemeni side of their border, missiles that are provided by Iran to the Houthi rebels. So there is a–there is this pressing requirement for self-defense to them right across the border that certainly has driven much of their military activity in Yemen in the past.