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Tags: iran | houthis | terrorist | attacks | red sea | israel | war

US: Iran 'Deeply Involved' in Red Sea Attacks on Commercial Vessels

Sunday, 24 December 2023 09:33 AM EST

The United States on Friday accused Iran of close involvement in attacks on commercial ships by Yemen's Houthi rebels, stepping up the tone as Washington considers tougher measures including possible force.

The United States shot down four drones headed toward a U.S. destroyer in the southern Red Sea. They were launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

"These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17," CENTCOM wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have disrupted world trade for weeks with attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea in what they say is a response to Israel's war in Gaza.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command responded to distress calls from two ships under attack, CENTCOM said.

Iran also announced Sunday that it had added domestically produced sophisticated cruise missiles to its arsenal, state TV reported.

The Iranian state TV said both Talaeieh and Nasir cruise missiles have arrived at a naval base near the Indian Ocean in the southern Iranian port of Konarak, some 1,400 kilometers (850 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran.

Navy chief Adm. Shahram Irani said the Talaeieh has a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and called it "fully smart.” Irani said the cruise missile is capable of changing targets during travel.

The White House publicly released US intelligence as the Iranian-linked Yemeni insurgents persist with ship strikes they say are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas militants.

The White House said that Tehran's clerical state has provided drones and missiles to the Houthis as well as tactical intelligence.

"We know that Iran was deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

"We have no reason to believe that Iran is trying to dissuade the Houthis from this reckless behavior," she said.

The Houthis, who control vast parts of the Arabian peninsula's poorest country including the capital Sanaa, have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels, according to the Pentagon.

With commercial traffic increasingly disrupted, the United States recently announced a multinational naval task force of more than 20 countries to protect vessels transiting the Red Sea.

In a show of force, the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has entered the Gulf of Aden, with a series of news reports saying President Joe Biden's administration is weighing military strikes if the ship attacks persist.

Rebel leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi warned Wednesday that if they were attacked, the rebels would strike back against "American battleships, American interests and American navigation."

The White House said that US visual analysis found nearly identical features between Iran's KAS-04 drones and the unmanned vehicles fired by the Houthis, as well as consistent features between Iranian and Houthi missiles.

The Houthis are also reliant on Iranian-provided monitoring systems at sea, the White House said.

"Moreover, Iranian-provided tactical intelligence has been critical in enabling Houthi targeting of maritime vessels since the group commenced attacks in November," Watson said.

Despite the findings presented by the White House, there have been doubts among some US and allied policymakers on whether the Houthis are acting at the behest of Iran.

One diplomat from a US ally who follows the region noted that Lebanon's Hezbollah — which has much closer ties with Iran — has been comparatively restrained in the face of US warnings including a show of naval might in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"Of Iran's proxies in the region, the Houthis have the weakest link to Tehran. And it is hard to see how the attacks serve their or Iran's interests," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The Biden administration had initially kept a low-key tone on the Houthi attacks, in part out of an interest in preserving a fragile peace in Yemen.

The Houthis and the Saudi-backed government have effectively maintained a UN-brokered truce since April 2022, halting a devastating war that triggered a humanitarian crisis in which most of the population relies on aid.

In a recent research paper, Michael Knights, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the Houthis shared the "paranoid" mindset of Iran's ruling clerics.

The United States should think of the Houthis as a sort of North Korea, "an insular, aggressive, well-armed player that is hostile to the United States and sitting on key geography," he wrote.

Iran's religious leadership openly supports Hamas, whose gunmen broke through Gaza's militarized border on October 7 and killed around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

US officials have said they have no evidence that Tehran had previous knowledge or directly planned the attack.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas. Its relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has killed more than 20,000 people, most of them women and children, according to Hamas authorities.

© AFP 2024

Iran was "deeply involved" in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea and its intelligence was critical to enable Yemen's Houthi movement to target ships, the White House said Friday.
iran, houthis, terrorist, attacks, red sea, israel, war, hamas, yemen, white house, shipping
Sunday, 24 December 2023 09:33 AM
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