US, UK Strike 36 Houthi Targets in Yemen; Backed by Six Other Countries

The attack followed shortly after CENTCOM had attacked anti-ship missiles that the Houthis were preparing to fire.
British Royal Air Force Typhoons conducting strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defense/X)
British Royal Air Force Typhoons conducting strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defense/X)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) –On Saturday, the U.S. and the U.K. attacked 36 targets at 16 sites belonging to the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The attack followed shortly after CENTCOM had attacked anti-ship missiles that the Houthis were preparing to fire.

Saturday’s attacks marked the first time in this conflict, ongoing since October, that the U.S. attacked Iranian proxy forces in one country twice in one day. 

The attacks also followed a day after the U.S. launched a major attack against Iranian-backed militia sites in Iraq and Syria, hitting 85 targets at seven locations, following last week's rocket attack that killed three U.S. soldiers.

Notably, in none of these strikes were any planes shot down, underscoring the weakness of the Iranian-backed militias in terms of conventional military force.

First Strike on Saturday against Houthis

As a CENTCOM statement explained, “On Feb, 3, at approximately 7:20 p.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command forces conducted strikes” against “six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.” 

U.S. forces “determined they represented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” CENTCOM’s statement continued. So, the anti-ship missiles were attacked, in an action aiming “to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure.”

The missiles in the Houthis’ possession came from Iran, of course. Following the large-scale attack that the U.S. carried out on Friday against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, stated that there had, indeed, been  a message in Friday’s large-scale strikes.

“We want the attacks to stop,” Kirby said. “We want them to stop right now.”

Read More: U.S. Says Attacks ‘Must Stop Right Now,’ as it Strikes IRGC, Militias in Iraq, Syria

Perhaps the Biden administration really means that? And it now recognizes that its earlier policy of “tit-for-tat” responses just played into Iran’s hands?

It allowed Iran to pose as champion of the Palestinians. That kept tensions at a low boil, with Iran confident that Washington would not respond to its provocations in a way that really hurt, as the Biden administration was so fearful that the conflict could “escalate.”

That approach worked to Iran’s advantage, and, perhaps, the administration now recognizes that.

Second Strike on Saturday against Houthis

Four hours after CENTCOM’s initial strike against Houthi targets in Yemen, the U.S. and U.K. launched another, much larger assault against them. Indeed, the second strike marked the second largest assault carried out by the U.S. and U.K. against targets in Yemen. 

Previous attacks occurred on Jan. 11 and Jan. 22. On Jan. 11, the two allies hit over 60 targets at 16 sites in the country, marking the largest such strike. 

The joint U.S.-U.K. attack on Saturday “targeted 13 locations associated with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems and radars,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a written statement.

Six other countries—Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands—issued a joint statement, along with the U.S.and U.K., further describing the attack.

Those six countries also provided support for the airstrikes, including logistics and intelligence, according to officials cited by The New York Times.

The joint statement explained that the U.S. and U.K. strikes had been conducted “in response to the Houthis’ continued attacks against international and commercial shipping as well as naval vessels transiting the Red Sea.”

The Houthi attacks, ongoing since mid-November, have resulted in a drop of 30% in container shipping through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. 

Read More:Red Sea container shipping down 30 percent over attacks: IMF

Saturday’s strike involved both U.S. planes and missiles: U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets, based on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, as well as Tomahawk missiles fired from two U.S. destroyers in the Red Sea.

In addition, Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4, a British combat airplane, flew from a British base in Cyprus to join the U.S. forces in attacking the Houthi sites.

These attacks occurred as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make a major Middle East trip, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt. Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank.

Among other things, Blinken will promote the notion of a normalization of Saudi ties with Israel in exchange for Israel’s agreement to an independent Palestinian state.

That is certainly a difficult negotiation, but it is facilitated by decisive moves against Iranian proxies in the region.