US and UK forces struck targets in Yemen together for the second time since Jan. 11. The strikes, said to be aimed at Houthi missile and tracking capabilities, followed a telephone discussion between President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “The President and Prime Minister discussed ongoing Iranian-backed Houthi attacks against merchant and naval vessels transiting the Red Sea,” the White House readout reported.
A joint statement issued by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States (the first four countries on the list did not participate in the strikes, limiting themselves instead to staff support—ed.) called the strikes “proportionate and necessary” which were “intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners.”
“These strikes from this multilateral coalition targeted areas in Houthi-controlled Yemen used to attack international merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region,” said the Centcom statement. “The targets included missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities.”
The strikes came hours after V. Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet, claimed, in an interview with The Associated Press, that Iran is “very directly involved” in the Houthi ship attacks. “What I’ll say is Iran is clearly funding, they’re resourcing, they are supplying and they’re providing training,” Cooper said. “They’re obviously very directly involved. There’s no secret there.”
The stated intention behind the US/UK strikes is to “deter” the Houthis, and by extension Iran, from launching attacks on shipping in the passing through the Bab el Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but they may not be deter-able. “If we want to deter the Houthis that’s not easy as they’re not a very deter-able group,” Edmund Fitton-Brown, a former British ambassador to Yemen, told The National of the UAE . “Their view is ‘you can’t ignore us, we can make your life difficult, if the world forgets about us we won’t let it.’ They are wedded to keeping face, that ‘we are indomitable fighters’, so the idea of them saying, ‘That hurt, let’s not do it again’ is not going to happen.”