Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. Fifth Fleet, drew a sharp line yesterday between Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) and any offensive action the U.S. and its allies may take against the Houthis. He told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon that “this operation is entirely defensive in nature.” The warning to the Houthis issued by the U.S. and 12 other countries on Jan. 3 was entirely separate from the “defensive” actions being undertaken by OPG, he said.
Cooper also reported that within hours of the warning, the Houthis launched a surface drone into the shipping lanes which detonated without causing any damage or casualties. “This was a unmanned—a one way attack, unmanned surface vessel that had launched from Houthi-controlled territory, had transited out to international shipping lanes, clearly with the intent to do harm,” he said later. He added that it was unclear who the target vessel was.
Cooper claimed further that OPG has already had a salutary effect on security in the southern Red Sea. Not only has the coalition grown, he said, but “since the start of the operation, there’s been no Houthi UAV or missiles actually fired into international shipping lanes that have actually hit any merchant vessels, surely have come close but no hits.” He added that “about 1,500 vessels have safely transited through the Bab al-Mandab.”