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Yemen's Houthis vow to hit US interests after targeting British ship

By Edward Yeranian
Sunday April 28, 2024

CAIRO — After the latest attack in the Red Sea on a British oil tanker, a top Houthi official in the Yemeni capital is vowing to attack U.S. interests across the region, including military bases on the east coast of Africa in Djibouti, Eritrea and elsewhere. Some commentators think this is part of an Iranian strategy to increase Tehran's influence in the Middle East.

Arab media reports that Yemen's Houthis — who control much of the north of the country and part of its Red Sea coast —attacked a British oil tanker, the Andromeda Star. U.S. military sources indicated the ship was slightly damaged by three missiles fired by the Houthis. A U.S. drone struck targets in Yemeni territory controlled by the Houthis to retaliate.

The Houthis' military spokesperson, Yehya Saree, claimed in a video statement aired by Arab media that Houthi forces "hit the Andromeda Star directly," and that the Houthis' air defenses also shot down a U.S. drone flying over Houthi-controlled territory.

He said that [Houthi forces] fired the "appropriate-sized missiles" to target the ship, hitting it directly, adding that Houthi air defense units also shot down a U.S. MQ-9 drone over the Houthi bastion of Saadeh in the far north of Yemen.

Official threatens US

A top Houthi political official in Sana’a, Hussein al Ezzi, also threatened the U.S. in a tweet Saturday, saying that his group — which controls the capital, but is not recognized by most countries as the official government of the country — "will attack U.S. interests or targets all across the region."

Sky News Arabia, based in the United Arib Emirates, claimed the Houthis "may attack U.S. military forces in Djibouti, Eritrea or Somalia." It is not clear that the Houthis have the technology to undertake such a feat.

London-based Iran analyst Mehrdad Khonsari told VOA that he thinks Tehran is agitating its Houthi militia proxies to keep the focus off Iran's most important regional ally, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, which he thinks Israel would like to destroy or severely damage.

"Exerting pressure on the Americans and the Europeans – including raising insurance costs – are important to Iran at this time to try to prevent the Israelis or the Americans or Europeans from dealing with issues of much, much greater concerns to [Tehran]: namely the potential Israeli degradation of Hezbollah, which would mean the collapse of Iran's entire regional policy and proxy policy," said Khonsari.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, argued that he thinks Iran is using all of its proxy forces, including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and Iraq's pro-Iranian Shi'ite militias, to "maintain a strong position in an eventual negotiation with the U.S. after the 2024 elections, if President Joe Biden is re-elected.

He said that Iran is pulling the strings and agitating its militia forces across the region to tell Hamas (in Gaza) that we are not letting you down, and to eventually have the upper hand when it comes time to go to the negotiating table after U.S. elections in 2024.

Abou Diab went on to assert that Iran has "two main objectives, the first being to continue with its nuclear program and the second is that, with all the ongoing anarchy in the region, everyone had forgotten about Iran's nuclear program as it increases its uranium enrichment capacity.

"Finally," he argued, "Iran is waiting to negotiate with the Biden administration, as it did with the Obama administration, a new nuclear agreement."

Joshua Landis, who heads the Middle East studies program at the University of Oklahoma, told VOA the conflict in Gaza is causing side effects on multiple fault lines in the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Egypt continued Saturday to try and broker an agreement between Hamas and Israel to bring a cease-fire to the Gaza conflict. Most regional observers, however, are not optimistic about a breakthrough.


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