US UK carry out strikes against Iran backed Houthis in Yemen

US, UK carry out strikes against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen – CNN


The US and British militaries launched strikes on Thursday against several Houthi targets in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. This was a significant response after the Biden administration and its allies warned that the Iran-backed militant group would face the consequences of repeated drone and missile attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

President Joe Biden said he ordered the strikes “in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks on international maritime vessels in the Red Sea.”

“Today, at my direction, U.S. forces – along with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands – successfully carried out strikes against a number of targets in Yemen that were used by Houthi rebels to pursue freedom “To endanger shipping in Yemen.” “One of the world's most important waterways,” the president said in a statement released by the White House.

Biden added that he “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary to protect our people and the free flow of international trade.”

The attacks were carried out by fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles. More than a dozen Houthi targets were attacked by missiles fired from the air, surface or underwater platforms and were chosen for their ability to blunt ongoing Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, a U.S. official said. official told CNN.

These included radar systems, storage and launch sites for drones, storage and launch sites for ballistic missiles and storage and launch sites for cruise missiles.

The strikes are a sign of growing international concern about the threat to one of the world's most critical waterways. For weeks, the U.S. had tried to avoid direct attacks on Yemen because of the threat of escalation in a region already rife with tensions, but continued Houthi attacks on international shipping forced the coalition to act.

A congressional source said senior administration officials briefed congressional leadership on the U.S. plans early Thursday.

The Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea on Tuesday marked the final straw that led to Biden giving the U.S. the green light to continue the attacks on Thursday, even though preparations had been underway for some time were, a senior US official told CNN.

The USS Florida, a submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles that sailed into the Red Sea on November 23, was part of the attack on Yemen, according to a second US official. Like the surface ships involved in the attack, the submarine fired Tomahawk land-attack missiles, the official said.

The strikes come as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remains hospitalized due to complications from prostate cancer surgery.

Although the US has carried out attacks against Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria since the war in Gaza began, this is the first known attack against the Houthis in Yemen. They come at a time of enormous tension in the Middle East as the US wants to ensure that the war in Gaza does not spill over into the wider region. The Biden administration had shied away from attacking the Houthis, fearing it could upset a delicate ceasefire between the militant group and Saudi Arabia reached after years of war.

But the White House had made it clear that repeated Houthi attacks on international shipping routes in the southern Red Sea were intolerable. The attacks have forced some of the world's largest shipping companies to avoid the waterway and instead add thousands of miles to international shipping routes by sailing around the African continent.

Hours before Thursday's attack, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Iran “has a role to play” in getting the Houthis to stop their “reckless, dangerous and illegal activities.” If they don't, he said, “there will be consequences.”

In a speech on Thursday, Houthi leader Abdul Malek Al-Houthi said any U.S. attack on Yemen “will not go unanswered,” warning cryptically that the response will be “much more” than attacks on U.S. ships in the country Sea.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned during a trip to the region: “If it doesn't stop, there will have to be consequences. And unfortunately it hasn't stopped.”

Blinken also said he did not believe the war in Gaza was escalating into a regional conflict, although he warned of “many danger points.” While in the region, Blinken visited Bahrain, home of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Navy's Fifth Fleet.

A key aspect of Blinken's trip to the Middle East was to tell regional leaders that U.S. military action against the Houthis should be viewed as defensive rather than escalatory measures, according to a senior State Department official.

The Houthis – an Iran-backed Shiite political and military organization waging a civil war in Yemen against a Saudi-backed coalition – have been firing drones and missiles at merchant ships in the Red Sea for weeks, many of which were also fired by US Navy ships intercepted and shot down in the area.

After Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, the rebel group said it supported Hamas' fight against Israel in Gaza.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution led by the United States and Japan “condemning in the strongest terms the at least two dozen Houthi attacks on commercial and commercial vessels since November 19, 2023” and calling for “the Houthis immediately stop all attacks.” such attacks.” Eleven countries voted for the resolution. Four abstained, including China and Russia. A Western diplomat told CNN that the US had acceded to some of China's demands regarding the wording of the resolution.

US attacks in Yemen are not unprecedented; According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States has carried out nearly 400 airstrikes in Yemen since 2002. But White House and Pentagon officials have said since Hamas' invasion that they do not want the conflict in Gaza to spread to the region. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said last week that the U.S. “does not seek conflict with the Houthis.”

U.S. concerns about taking direct action in Yemen include the risk of disrupting a carefully negotiated ceasefire in Yemen's war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. A US official previously told CNN that the Biden administration considers one of its most significant foreign policy successes.

The U.S. and its allies issued a warning to the Houthis on Jan. 3, saying in a joint statement that the Houthis “will bear responsibility for the consequences if they continue to threaten lives, the global economy and the free movement of commerce in the region. “critical waterways.”

Nevertheless, the attacks continued.

Just hours after the joint statement was released, the Houthis launched an unmanned surface drone against commercial shipping routes – the first time they have used this type of weapon since their attacks began. And on Tuesday, three U.S. Navy destroyers, Navy F/A-18s USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and a British destroyer HMS Diamond, fired 21 missiles and drones in one of the largest Houthi attacks to date. No ships were damaged by the attack and no injuries were reported.

Houthi fighters have also attempted to physically board commercial vessels, including a recent instance when U.S. helicopters sank three small Houthi boats attacking the Maersk Hangzhou on December 30, killing the crews.

There have been at least 27 Houthi attacks since November 19. As the U.S. and its allies control the Houthis' ongoing attacks, there have also been at least 131 attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria since October 17. Multiple attacks on facilities affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and communicate with other deputy forces. Just last week, the U.S. targeted a member of Iran's proxy group Harakat al-Nujaba who one official said had “US blood on his hands” in Iraq.

The Houthis' attacks began soon after the war began in Gaza, saying they would attack ships tied to Israel. Norman Roule, the CIA's former national intelligence manager for Iran, previously told CNN that Houthi commanders who “boast to their tribal followers that they have carried out attacks against Israel and the United States are undermining their position within the movement.” strengthen.”

But many of the merchant ships had no connection to Israel. Vice Admiral Bradley Cooper, commander of U.S. Navy Central Command, said last week that the U.S. believes 55 nations have “direct ties” to the ships that have come under fire.

CNN's Samantha Waldenberg contributed to this report.

This story is current and will be updated.