On Oct. 9, militants in Yemen — widely believed be members or allies of the Houthis, an Iran-backed Shi’ite political movement — fired missiles at the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason and the amphibious mothership Ponce in the Bab Al Mandab Strait. On Oct. 11, at least one more cruise missile struck the water near Mason.
Four days after the initial incident, Mason’s sister ship USS Nitze lobbed Tomahawk cruise missiles of its own at radar sites in what the Pentagon described as “Houthi-controlled territory” in western Yemen.
“These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook stated. “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate.”
But Washington is hardly an innocuous bystander who just happened to get to close to Yemen’s current crisis. The attempted missile strikes on Mason underscore the increasingly confused and contradictory goals in Washington and allied capitals when it comes to Yemen.