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May 19, 2024

US Warship Narrowly Avoids Houthi Missile Attack as Tensions Boil Over

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Feb 3, 2024

Tensions between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and the US military continue to escalate, with a US destroyer nearly struck by a Houthi missile earlier this week. This latest near miss comes amidst tit-for-tat strikes between the two sides and threats of further attacks.

Timeline of Recent Events

The current crisis traces back to January 26th, when a commercial vessel caught fire off the coast of Yemen after reportedly being targeted by the Houthis. This assault represented the latest in the rebel group’s months-long campaign targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

Just days later, on January 29th, the US conducted an airstrike in Yemen, stating it had targeted Houthi forces preparing to launch attacks on US allies in the region. The Houthis vowed to retaliate against both US and British ships in response.

Tensions continued boiling on January 31st, as the US military shot down a Houthi missile over the Gulf of Aden that officials said posed an “imminent threat” to US aircraft in the area. Later that same day, three US soldiers were killed in a drone attack on a military base in Jordan, with Iranian ties suspected.

This spate of violence culminated on February 1st with the closest call yet – a Houthi missile came within 0.6 nautical miles of the US Navy destroyer USS Gravely near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The Gravely was able to successfully deploy countermeasures to avoid being struck.

Houthi Capabilities on Display

The Houthis have demonstrated an expanding arsenal of weapons through these recent strikes, despite facing a naval blockade by the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government. Their missiles were previously unable to reach ships at sea, but they now possess land-based anti-ship missiles with sufficient range to target vessels in the Red Sea up to 125 miles offshore.

This new capability was reportedly facilitated by Iran smuggling weapons components into Yemen. The Houthis unveiled their first homemade sea-skimming missile back in 2019, showing their determination to develop an advanced missile program and their increasing self-sufficiency.

Houthi Missile Types Description
Cruise Missiles Iran-designed land-attack cruise missiles, capable of precisely striking targets up to 1,000-1,500 km away
Ballistic Missiles Shorter range but still dangerous, carrying warheads up to 500 kg; based on Iranian designs
Explosive Drones Increasingly used for strikes on targets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia

Experts assess that the Houthis will continue working to extend their missile and drone reach, while using their existing arsenal to threaten and potentially strike US and allied ships. Their goal appears to be gaining leverage to pressure the Saudi-led coalition battling them to lift its blockade on Houthi-held areas.

Close Call for US Warship Gravely

The “close call” incident involving the USS Gravely on February 1st highlighted both the boldness of Houthi attacks and the defensive capabilities protecting US ships.

The Gravely reportedly detected the inbound missile early and reacted by firing its own missiles to intercept the Houthi weapon. The US Navy also has extensive radar tracking to provide warning of attacks.

But when a missile gets as near as this one did, less than a mile from impact, ships have to rely on their automated Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) guns as a last line of defense. The Phalanx fires 4,500 high-explosive rounds per minute, using robotic precision to hit the incoming missile if other systems fail to stop it.

So while this incident showed the Houthis’ willingness to directly attack US warships, it also demonstrated the effective protective measures those ships have to guard against strikes.

US Response – Limited Options

The Biden Administration faces difficult decisions on how to respond to the Houthis without being drawn deeper into conflict. The US has already conducted limited strikes on Houthi missile and drone facilities, but such actions risk triggering retaliatory attacks like those seen over the past week.

There is little prospect of direct US intervention in Yemen’s internal conflict. But the US does have significant leverage from supplying arms and intelligence to the Saudi coalition fighting the Houthis.

Experts say the administration could use this leverage to press Saudi Arabia into easing aspects of its blockade on Yemen and pursuing a diplomatic settlement. However, there are no signs yet of the Biden team taking a more forceful stance toward the Saudis.

Absent progress on a peace process, sporadic clashes between US and Houthi forces appear likely to persist. Each incident raises the potential for further escalation or dire miscalculation by either side.

What Happens Next?

In the near term, Houthi missile and drone strikes may well continue, keeping ships on high alert across the southern Red Sea. But most analysts do not foresee a direct military confrontation emerging between US and Houthi forces.

The likeliest trajectory is ongoing low-level hostilities, with the Houthis working to pressure Saudi Arabia as their primary adversary. Their new anti-ship missiles give them potent leverage in this regard.

Iran seems to be pursuing a calibrated strategy of backing proxy groups launching limited attacks, but avoiding crossing thresholds that could trigger open conflict with the US military.

Ultimately, some form of political settlement is needed to end Yemen’s grueling civil war and curb periodic crises like the current one. But the key players remain deadlocked, and the Yemeni people continue suffering the consequences.

This story used information from the following sources:
[source 1], [source 2], [source 3]

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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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