A U.S. warship fired three cruise missiles at Iranian-backed Houthi radar stations Thursday, which were used to fire missiles at U.S. warships in international waters.
“These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” the Pentagon said in a statement after the strike. “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic.”
Houthi rebels fired missiles at the U.S. on Sunday and Wednesday. In both cases, U.S. destroyers employed “defensive maneuvers” causing the missiles to fall into the sea. U.S. military officials speculated the missile may have been a Chinese-made Silkworm cruise-missile, a well-known part of Iran’s military arsenal.
All missile strikes were fired on U.S ships operating in international waters. Iranian-backed militia fire on a U.S. warship in international waters is a significant escalation of the ongoing civil war in Yemen. The U.S. is supporting a Saudi-led air coalition against the Houthi insurgency, which struck a high profile funeral procession Saturday sparking widespread international condemnation. The Houthis’ attack may have been in retaliation for the funeral strike.
The Houthis are an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Yemen. “It’s not a secret that Iran has been actively supplying them and giving them the tools of war,” Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis said in 2015. The U.S. intercepted an Iranian shipping vessel sending vast shipments of arms to the Houthis in April 2016. The weapons included 1,500 Ak-47s, 200 RPGs, multiple 50 caliber machine guns.
The White House acknowledged it believes Iran is actively arming the Houthi insurgency, perpetuating the Yemeni civil war. The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital in 2015, prompting concern by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations that Yemen would become an Iranian proxy state.
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