This week has seen tensions rise off the coast of Yemen to unheard of levels as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels twice fired cruise missiles at US Navy warships and in response, a US Navy destroyer fired Tomahawk cruise missiles destroying three coastal radar installations that were used to track the American ships.
Tensions rose even more when the Iranian regime announced it was sending two Iranian warships to the Gulf of Aden in close proximity to one of the world’s most important shipping routes.
“Iran’s Alvand and Bushehr warships have been dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to protect trade vessels from piracy,” regime-controlled Tasnim News Agency reported.
The move introduces Iranian warships far from their operating bases and coastline along the Persian Gulf and puts them adjacent to US warships at a time when threatening behavior is being met with salvos rather than radio warnings.
The Iranian regime has used its navy over the past year to engage in an escalating game of chicken in the Persian Gulf, including having ships make aggressive high speed runs at US warships and ignore radioed warnings and even shots fired across their bows.
Earlier, the Iranian regime detained two US patrol boats that had strayed into waters claimed by the regime and paraded captive US sailors on television and even built a monument to the episode.
The move was seen as the latest escalation in U.S.-Iran tension related to a proxy war in Yemen, where the two are backing opposing sides. The U.S. in March 2015 joined a Saudi-led military coalition to support the embattled Yemeni government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to The Hill.
Although the Tasnim News Agency reported that the Iran ship deployments were to “protect the country’s trade vessels against piracy in the unsafe zone,” it also noted that it “coincides with the US decision to directly get involved in a Saudi-led war against Yemen.”
For the Iranian regime and its mullahs, Yemen is rapidly rising in importance as it becomes a proxy war for the larger conflict it is pursuing in the region. The use of Houthi rebels as proxies is similar to the game plan used by the mullahs with Hezbollah in Syria and Shiite militias in Iraq, all of which are supplied by Iran’s Quds Forces and Revolutionary Guard Corps with weapons, ammunition and training.
The Houthi’s use of Chinese-made cruise missiles against the US Navy warships is a disturbing escalation since the weapons are not cheap and require a fairly high level of technical know-how to operate in coordination with radar tracking; technical expertise almost surely provided by the Iranian military.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a leading advocate of a tough foreign policy toward Iran, said it was unacceptable that the Obama administration continues to relax financial sanctions on Iran while it supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“I am relieved the crew of the USS Mason remain safe and unharmed in the Red Sea after Iran-backed Houthi rebels repeatedly launched missile attacks at them,” Kirk said in a statement.
“It’s counterproductive, absurd and unacceptable that the White House keeps unilaterally relaxing financial sanctions against the Iranian terror-sponsoring regime while Iran continues to actively support Houthi militants in Yemen that are trying to kill American servicemen and servicewomen in the Middle East,” he said.
The inconvenient truth for the White House is that after over a year of appeasing the Iranian regime, the US now finds itself on a brink of an actual shooting war with Iran; a fact that the Wall Street Journal editorial board warned about.
“The White House doesn’t want Americans to notice, but the tide of war is not receding in the Middle East. The Navy this week became part of the hot war in Yemen, with a U.S. warship launching missiles against radar targets after American vessels were fired on this week. Just when President Obama promised that American retreat would bring peace to the region, the region pulls him back in,” the Journal wrote.
“Don’t expect the White House to acknowledge this because the ironies here are something to behold. Mr. Obama is backing the Saudis in Yemen in part to reassure them of U.S. support after the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal that the Saudis opposed. Mr. Obama’s Iran deal was supposed to moderate Iran’s regional ambitions, so Mr. Obama could play a mediating role between Tehran and Riyadh. But the nuclear deal has emboldened Iran, and fortified it with more money, so now the U.S. is being drawn into what amounts to a proxy war against Iran. Genius,” the Journal added.
The increase in attacks against the US by Iran may be designed to weaken its support for Saudi Arabia and further fragment the coalition fighting Iranian adventures in Syria, Iraq and Yemen right now.
By Michael Tomlinson