Saturday, October 15, 2016

US warship reportedly attacked in seas around Yemen.

File photo of the USS Mason. Reuters. 

A US guided missile destroy sailing near Yemen has reportedly come under missile fire from the country. Reuters. The USS Mason was sailing in the Red Sea when it came under attack from surface to surface missiles. The Mason was not hit due to using countermeasures. The missile strike is the 3rd to target the Mason this week. On Thursday, US forces targeted Houthi controlled radar sites on the coast. The attack was the first one that the United States has launched against Houthi rebels in the Yemeni civil war. The Houthis, for their part, denied responsibility for the attacks. The escalation in US force against the Houthis comes after a massive airstrike that killed more than 140 people that was carried out by the Saudi led coalition. 

My Comment:
Very strange incident. You would think that the Houthis would not want to target an US destroyer. I won't say the Houthis are winning right now, but it's pretty clear that the war is a stalemate. Drawing fire from the United States, who has until now exclusively targeted the Houthis enemy, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It seems like it would be massively counter productive.

I have little doubt that the Houthis are the ones that conducted the attack. There aren't any other reasonable candidates in the area. The Yemeni loyalists aren't in the area that the missiles were launched from. AQAP doesn't have anywhere near that technology and doesn't operate in that part of the country either. And ISIS is a bit player in Yemen. 

I guess the Saudi led coalition could be responsible but that makes zero sense. Sure, they could false flag an attack if they wanted to, but what would they gain? A few airstrikes against the Houthis? Not worth the risks in my humble opinion. Whatever small gains they would get from limited airstrikes in Yemen would be negated if their deception was found out. Though the US-Saudi relationship has soured recently, I doubt they would risk it over a few radar sites. 

How dangerous are these attacks on a US warship? Probably not too dangerous. These destroyers have advanced countermeasures and one of their key roles is missile defense. The USS Mason is an Arliegh Burke class destroyer equipped with the Aegis weapons system and powerful radar. This allows the Mason and other destroyers of the class to detect these missiles and shoot them down with missiles or point defense guns before they impact. As long as these systems don't malfunction and they have enough ammunition, the Mason should be relatively safe. 

Still, these attacks have caused a major escalation in US foreign policy in Yemen. As mentioned, we haven't done anything there except target AQAP. Indeed, after the massive airstrike on a funeral that killed a lot of innocent people, we had threatened to scale back our involvement. Now it looks like we are scaling it back up.

That being said, I don't have a problem with the United States firing back. An attack on a US destroyer is the same as an attack on US soil. Some kind of response is not only justified, it's absolutely necessary. We can't let people just attempt to destroy one of our most powerful and important ships without some kind of response. Destroying the radar sites partially responsible for the attacks is  proportionate response and the correct one. I would hope though, that our response stays this limited though.

As for the Yemeni Civil War, this incident will probably not have a larger effect on the conflict. Destroying a few radar sites will not seriously harm the Houthi's ability to wage war. They have done a fairly impressive job against the Saudis and the Yemeni government and that is due in large part because they took a lot of the military with them when they started the war. It's almost a misnomer to call them rebels because what normal rebels have access to anti-ship missiles and even ballistic missiles that they have used to attack Saudi Arabia? 

I don't see the Yemeni Civil War ending anytime soon either. The Houthis are in a pretty decent position and I don't expect a diplomatic solution anytime soon. The Saudis are starting to seem desperate though. The war has spilled over to their borders and like I said, they have suffered some ballistic missile strikes. Given the reputation of their military it's fairly surprising that they are stuck in a stalemate. Part of that is how powerful the Houthis actually are, but I am still surprised how poorly they are doing... 

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