by WorldTribune Staff, February 2, 2017
Iran-backed Houthi rebels who bombed a Saudi frigate may have thought they were attacking a U.S. vessel.
U.S. defense officials told Fox News that the Houthi attack on Jan. 30 off the coast of Yemen may have been meant for an American warship.
Those behind the attack “either thought the bomber was striking an American warship or that this was a ‘dress rehearsal’ similar to the attack on the USS Cole,” according to one official.
The attack in the southern Red Sea killed two Saudi sailors and wounded three others.
U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said the attack underscored “Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.”
The Saudi navy at first thought the ship had been struck by a missile, but analysis of a video of the attack released by Houthi-controlled media led American intelligence officials to determine that a suicide bomber had rammed the side of the Saudi frigate, the Fox News report said.
According to intel officials, a voice narrating the attack on the video shouts in Arabic, “Allahu akbar [God is great], death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory for Islam.”
The attack occurred near the Bab al Mandab Strait which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It occurred in the same area where U.S. Navy warships came under Houthi missile attack in October. An American destroyer shot down the incoming missiles – the first successful engagement in combat using an American SM-2 missile.
In retaliation, the USS Nitze, an American destroyer, launched Tomahawk missiles at multiple Houthi radar sites in Yemen.
The U.S. has since 2015 supported the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Meanwhile, the White House on Feb. 1 said it was putting Iran “on notice” for test-firing a ballistic missile in what was seen as a violation of Teheran’s nuclear deal with world powers and a UN Security Council resolution.
Iran confirmed it had tested a new missile but said it did not breach the nuclear deal or the UN resolution that endorsed the pact.
Flynn said that instead of being thankful to the United States for the nuclear deal, “Iran is now feeling emboldened.”
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he told reporters in his first appearance in the White House press briefing room.
One official said the intent of Flynn’s message was to make clear the Trump administration would not be “shy or reticent” toward Teheran.
“Our sincere hope is that the Iranians will heed this notice today and will change their behavior,” the official said.