By Caden Pearson
The United States carried out a second round of strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebel targets in Yemen early Saturday local time, just a day after launching coordinated air strikes with international allies on 28 Houthi positions.
The fresh strikes come after the Houthi rebels fired at least one anti-ship ballistic missile into crucial international shipping lanes in the Red Sea on Friday, according to a senior military official.
At around 3:45 a.m. Saturday morning local time, the USS Carney, a U.S. warship, used Tomahawk missiles in a follow-up strike on a Houthi radar site in Yemen, aiming to degrade their ability to attack maritime vessels, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) stated.
Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of operations for the Joint Staff, told reporters at a press briefing earlier on Friday that the missile fired “in retaliation” by Houthi rebels that day did not hit any ships.
“My guess is that the Houthis are trying to figure things out on the ground and trying to determine what capabilities still exist for them,” Lt. Gen. Sims said, adding that he expected they will try “some sort of retaliation.”
Lt. Gen. Sims indicated his hope that Iran would exert its “influence with the Houthis” to discourage further retaliatory actions.
“There are a number of actors here who have the ability and have influence with the Houthis who recognize that continued conflict … is not advantageous to them. Iran would be one of them,” he said.
“As you know, the Iranians are directly, you know, connected to this, have been connected to the Houthis for quite some time, and we know that the Houthis listen to them. So the hope would be that any real thought of retaliation is based on a clear understanding that, you know, we simply are not going to be messed with here.”
This comes after the United States and the United Kingdom struck 28 different Houthi sites in Yemen on Thursday in what the country’s officials said was a bid to disrupt and degrade their ability to carry out similar attacks upon international shipping lanes in the Red Sea as they have carried out since mid-November.
The U.S. and UK response on Thursday, supported by a host of other countries, used “just over 150 various munitions” fired from the air and sea against Houthi missiles, radar, and unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities, said Lt. Gen. Sims during a phone briefing on Jan. 12.
Lt. Gen. Sims said the strike targets were located in sparsely populated areas, and a high number of casualties were not expected. “This was not necessarily about casualties as much as it was about degrading capability” in terms of attacking “international shipping in the Red Sea, in the Bab-al-Mandeb.”
The two countries were also backed by Canada, Australia, Bahrain, and the Netherlands in a non-operational capacity on Thursday.
The Houthis have targeted commercial ships in the Red Sea since mid-November, citing revenge against Israel for its Gaza campaign. A senior administration official rejected this justification for the attacks on the shipping channel on Thursday, asserting that the Houthi’s goal is to disrupt global trade.
“This is an issue about global commerce, the freedom of navigation, and threats to commercial vessels and international waterways,” the senior administration official said.
CENTCOM noted that the two strikes carried out this week “have no association with and are separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of over 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and Gulf of Aden.”
President Joe Biden issued a warning on Friday that the United States would take further military action in response to ongoing Houthi drone and missile attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, labeling their behavior as outrageous.
“We will make sure we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior along with our allies,” President Biden said while in Pennsylvania.