Red Sea Escalation: Houthis Target US Warships with Missiles, Drones

In a televised address on Tuesday, Yahya Sarea, the military spokesperson for Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, announced a military operation targeting two US warship destroyers in the Red Sea. According to Sarea, the operation involved the use of several naval missiles and drones aimed at the ships.

US Central Command said the missiles hit the guided-missile frigate USS Eisenhower and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Carney. The USS Carney retaliated by returning fire, adding that no damage was sustained. Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely also responded to the Houthi attack and “engaged three of the four small boats, sinking them and killing their crew members,” CENTCOM added.

The attack on the Carney is the second this week and comes amid mounting tensions between the US and Yemen’s government, which it supports. The Houthis say the US is seeking to militarize the Red Sea and block access to ports in their country.

Analysts warn that such escalating attacks could disrupt global shipping, a system that moves about 12 percent of the world’s goods. Many of those ships move through the Suez Canal-Red Sea corridor, used by more than a quarter of the world’s container ships. “It’s important not to look at the current threat, but what kind of domino effect will this cause three or four weeks down the road,” says Lars Jensen, CEO of the consultancy Vespucci Maritime. “And then, what kind of costs will that have to be passed on?”

Houthi missiles and boats have attacked ships carrying everything from cars to Crocs from one corner of the globe to another. The attacks have effectively closed one of the leading trade routes for most cargo ships, forcing firms to reroute to more expensive journeys around southern Africa. The US has pressed for an international force to tamp down the attacks, but the Pentagon has offered few details about how such a force might be created.

The Houthis are descendants of Hussein Abdreddin al Houthi, a Zaydi cleric who became a bitter critic of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the 1990s and gathered supporters for anti-government demonstrations. They have fought against the Saudi-led coalition that supports the Yemeni government since 2015.

Yemen, once a beacon of stability in the Middle East, is in the midst of a civil war that has pitted Saleh’s forces against those of his former deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The two sides have been locked in a stalemate for months.

A Saudi-led military campaign to restore Hadi to power has been hampered by the Houthis’ rockets, ballistic missiles, and drones, which have killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The conflict has stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to neighboring countries, potentially igniting a regional war.

The Houthis have been aided by Iranian-supplied missiles and drones that can be purchased for relatively little money, experts say. Those weapons have forced the US and its allies to rethink their strategy, analysts say, which had focused on pushing back the Houthis in Yemen.

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