A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Missiles of October: Are the Houthis Trying to Bring the US Into the Yemen War?

The forgotten, ignored war in Yemen is suddenly drawing the attention of the US, which has supplied aircraft and ordnance to Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, for the second time in four days, two cruise missiles were fired at the USS Mason in the Red Sea north of the Strait of Bab al-Mandab. For the second time the US destroyer was unharmed and responded with countermeasures, so far not detailed. but with reports that one salvo of the response appeared to down one of the missiles. The missiles appeared to originate near Mocha. Early today the US struck back, hitting three coastal radar sites.

On Sunday, in the midst of a three-day Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day holiday in the US, the Mason had earlier came under fnedire from two missiles, while on patrol near the USS Ponce amphibious dock (AFSB(I)-15). The Mason in that case fired one Evolved Seasparrow air defense missile and two Standard Missile 2  (SM- 2) missiles.

In both cases the incoming missiles mat have been Iranian-backed Noor missiles, an Iranian-designed version of the Chinese C-802.

A week before the first attack on the Mason the UAE-leased catamaran HSV-2 Swift was sunk by missiles fired by small boats in the same general area. Here is the alleged video of that attack:

There is little doubt that these attacks were launched by the Houthi side in the Yemen civil war. Are these attacks merely a Houthi lashing out after the brutal and bloody GCC coalition attack, probably conducted by Saudi Arabia, on a funeral in Sana‘a'? The first Mason attack followed on the heels of the funeral attack, which killed 150 or more. (Since it was carried out with US supplied aircraft and ordnance, it may have been meant as retribution, though the difference in power seems enormously asymmetric).  But the UAE sinking was prior to the funeral attack.

Back in early 2015, I posted about people who were alarmed that the Houthis might close the Strait of Bab al-Mandab. I stand by my argument that the Houthis cannot dominate the strait. I'll talk more in coming days.

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