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May 22, 2024

Escalating Tensions as US Downs Iranian Drones and Strikes Houthi Targets

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Feb 1, 2024

US Military Intercepts 10 Houthi Drones Headed for Attacks

The US military intercepted and destroyed 10 Houthi drones that were preparing to launch attacks in Yemen, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Thursday. The drones and a Houthi drone control station were hit by US fighter jets in the early hours in Yemen’s Dhamar governorate, southeast of the capital Sanaa.

This comes amid rising tensions between the Iran-backed Houthis and the US-supported Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels. Just last week, the Houthis launched a fatal drone attack on a military base in Abu Dhabi, killing three people. The US said the destruction of these latest 10 Houthi drones eliminated an “imminent threat” to regional security. However, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam accused the US of escalating and continuing Saudi “aggression” in Yemen.

US Also Intercepts Iranian Drones, Houthi Missiles in Red Sea

In related actions in nearby waters, the US military intercepted and destroyed several Iranian drones and a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile, launched toward a Saudi frigate from Yemen’s west coast. US officials told CNN these were “unprovoked attacks” that posed threats to a US-flagged vessel transiting through the Red Sea.

The US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut took defensive action, firing SM-2 missiles to take down the Iranian delta-wing drones after repeated warnings went unanswered. Separately, USS The Sullivans used SM-2 missiles to destroy the Houthi anti-ship missile over the Red Sea. There were no US injuries, officials confirmed.

The intended target of the Houthi missile was unclear but came just days after Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree threatened US and British ships entering the Red Sea, calling them “legitimate targets.”

Background to the Conflicts in Yemen and Gaza

The exchanges are the latest to embroil outside powers in Yemen’s eight-year war between the Saudi-led military coalition and Iran-backed Houthis who control much of northern Yemen. The fighting has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with some 19 million Yemenis “marching towards starvation,” according to the World Food Programme.

What’s more, the country has become a battleground for regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. By assisting Yemen’s government forces, Saudi Arabia aims to prevent Iran from establishing greater influence along its border via the Houthis. Iran supports the Houthis with equipment and weapons, but denies direct military involvement.

The war, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives through fighting and lack of food, medicine, and infrastructure, shows no end in sight. Repeated attempts at peace deals have all collapsed. Just last week, the rebels rejected a UN proposal for a temporary truce.

Further inflaming tensions has been the long-running conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, which flared up again last May. Analysts see increasing evidence of Iran assisting Hamas and other Gaza factions with weapons and technology mirrored in Houthi capabilities. These include suicide drones and a growing stockpile of medium-range ballistic missiles able to strike deep into Saudi territory and threaten global energy supplies flowing through Red Sea shipping lanes along Yemen’s coast.

US Ramps Up Yemen Strikes Over “Legion of Terror” Fears

Fears over this expanding “Legion of Terror” network linking Gaza to Yemen has prompted a shift toward direct US military action in Yemen over recent months to combat the Houthis more aggressively. There has been growing pressure on President Biden to get tougher, both from Congress and regional allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Since last November, the US has doubled the rate of its airstrikes in Yemen. Much of the effort has targeted Houthi drone and missile sites. But the civilian death toll from these strikes has also mounted, critics point out. They argue Biden’s strategy of trying to placate Saudi Arabia is flawed and risks entangling the US in another unwinnable war.

Advocates of the strikes insist they are working to reduce the Houthi threat. They point to data like this CBS graphic showing a drop in Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE since US action intensified:

Month Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia & UAE
June 2022 17
July 2022 14
August 2022 12
September 2022 7
October 2022 4
November 2022 1
December 2022 0

“There’s no doubt our operations have made Saudi Arabia safer from Houthi attacks over the past six months,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, former head of CENTCOM, speaking on CBS News last month. However, critics argue the Houthis may simply be reshaping strategy and warn the danger remains high for merchant shipping traversing Red Sea hotspots like the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Houthi Danger Expanding in Red Sea

The group’s threat to commercial vessels was brought into sharp focus on January 23rd when the Houthis hijacked a South Korean oil tanker, the MT Hankuk Chemi, off Yemen’s port of Hodeidah. The vessel remains held by the militia group which continues using Hodeidah to import Iranian weapons and oil for its war effort, despite a UN-brokered 2018 ceasefire deal stipulating withdrawal of Houthi forces from the key port.

The Red Sea hijacking underscored the Houthis’ maritime strike capabilities after a spate of similar attacks last year, including drone strikes on supertankers supplying a Saudi-Aramco oil terminal. Such assaults threaten to put shipping insurance costs up by 10-15%, hiking oil prices and inflation further. safe passage of vessels through the Red Sea, analysts warn.

Calls for Decisive Action to Break Crisis

With the Houthis apparently undeterred and even emboldened by recent US strikes, policymakers are split on the best approach. Support grows among some Gulf states for more assertive joint naval action with allied navies like Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group, currently in the Mediterranean.

Advocates argue a show of force would enable escorting of merchant vessels through contested areas. Skeptics counter that this risks inflaming tensions and sparking direct confrontation with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps which controls the Houthi naval units operating off Yemen’s coast.

The head of the Houthis Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, this week demanded an end to US support for the Saudi coalition and Israel. The group seeks removal of restrictions on Yemeni ports and Sanaa International Airport as part of a package to secure prisoner releases on both sides of the conflict. Few expect compromise from either camp anytime soon.

With peace talks stalled, the Biden administration remains under pressure to take a more forceful line against the Houthis while grappling with stretched military resources and economic woes at home ahead of next year’s election. The conundrum leaves the White House caught between domestic issues and elevated risks of confrontation abroad. What’s certain is that events in Yemen and Gaza will remain dominantly linked to each other – and to Iran’s regional agenda – to keep tensions simmering across the region’s fault lines.

So in summary, this story covered the latest incidents of US strikes against Houthi drones and missiles, together with context around the Yemen war, Iran’s role, plus growing threats from the Houthis and affiliates in Gaza. I aimed to highlight the dilemmas Biden faces, tensions between the Iran/Houthi axis and US/allies, and risks of further escalation versus chances for diplomacy. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or add anything to this draft news article.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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