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U.S. and Allies Strike Houthi Targets in Yemen After Attacks on Shipping and Troops

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The United States military conducted a series of airstrikes on Houthi rebel targets in Yemen on February 3rd, 2024, along with support from the United Kingdom, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. The strikes come amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as the Houthis are backed by Tehran.

According to a statement from U.S. Central Command, the coalition forces struck over 30 sites across rebel-controlled parts of Yemen, targeting weapons storage facilities, command centers, air defense systems, and other military infrastructure. The goal was to degrade the Houthis’ ability to conduct attacks and threaten shipping lanes in the region.

Centcom spokesperson Lt. Col. Earl Brown said, “The Houthis have increased the pace of their attacks over the last couple months against multiple civilian and military targets, including an attack on the UAE on January 17 that killed three civilians and targeted a base hosting U.S. personnel supporting Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.”

“The Houthis must cease destabilizing actions and start peace negotiations. The United States and our partners support a prosperous, stable, and free Yemen,” Brown added.

The strikes come after a Houthi missile attack killed three American soldiers at a military base in Jordan on January 27th. U.S. officials believe the missile attack originated from Houthi-controlled areas of western Iraq, likely with Iranian assistance.

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In response, the U.S. conducted airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria on February 2nd. However, those strikes do not seem to have deterred Iran or its proxies.

On February 3rd, the U.S. downed six Houthi cruise missiles that were likely headed for a U.S. warship patrolling the Red Sea. Another Houthi anti-ship missile was intercepted early on February 4th.

The Houthis seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014, ousting the internationally-recognized government. In 2015, Saudi Arabia entered the conflict to try to restore the government, fearing rising Iranian influence on its southern border.

The ensuing civil war has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with widespread famine and disease. However, the Houthis remain firmly in control of much of northern Yemen. They have launched missiles, drones, and naval attacks against Saudi Arabia and vessels in the Red Sea over the course of the 7-year conflict.

The recent uptick in Houthi attacks coincides with stalled negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Some analysts believe Iran is signaling its ability to destabilize the region if an agreement is not reached soon.

“The Houthis are under increasing financial strain with Yemen’s riyal plummeting in value. So they need to shake down the Iranians for more money, and missile and drone attacks is how they do that,” said Elana DeLozier, a Yemen expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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“Iran obliges because the Houthis give them a cheap way to threaten US allies and interests, but timing them around the Vienna talks also sends a signal to the West that Iran has ways to retaliate if negotiations collapse,” DeLozier added.

The U.S. airstrikes drew condemnation from Houthi leaders, who urged Yemenis to join a mass demonstration in the capital Sanaa on February 4th to denounce the “aggression.” Thousands of Houthi supporters marched through the city, shouting anti-American slogans and carrying banners reading “Death to America.”

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam said, “The barbaric bombing against our dear country is an extension of the American-Zionist aggression against our nation. These hostile acts won’t break the will of the Yemeni people or force them to submit. The flames of war started by the enemies will burn those who ignited it.”

Analysts say it’s unclear if the latest round of strikes will substantially impact the Houthis’ capabilities or alter their behavior. Past U.S. strikes have only briefly interrupted the rebel group’s attacks on foreign ships and Saudi targets.

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“The Houthis are well dug-in after years of war and air strikes. They have a large arsenal of ballistic missiles and drones that are difficult to fully eliminate from the air,” said Elisabeth Kendall, a Yemen scholar at Oxford University.

Furthermore, she noted, “The strikes risk galvanizing anti-U.S. sentiment among Yemenis and boosting Houthi narratives that they are leading resistance to a foreign invasion.”

Indeed, the rebels’ propaganda apparatus has already begun using footage of alleged civilian casualties to stir outrage against America and its partners. The deaths of Yemeni civilians could complicate U.S.-Saudi efforts to portray the Houthis as the main obstacle to ending the grueling war.

As long as the Houthis remain under Tehran’s influence, sporadic strikes alone are unlikely to resolve the larger regional tensions underlying the Yemen conflict. Iran seems determined to use its proxies to antagonize the U.S. and its allies.

American officials insist they are still seeking a diplomatic solution and have kept the door open to reviving the nuclear deal. But unless that happens soon, tensions with Iran could continue to boil over into military skirmishes in Yemen and elsewhere.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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