By firing missiles into Yemen, the United States likely will be further entangled in a stalemate war in the Arab world's poorest country, a conflict it has sought to extract itself from in recent weeks, reports The Associated Press. But who exactly is fighting in Yemen and what does the US have to do it with it?
Yemen, on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been in the midst of a civil war since September 2014. That's when Shia rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital of Sanaa and overthrew the country's internationally recognized government. Houthi allies include forces loyal to Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and have the backing of Shiite power Iran. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries began a military campaign against the Houthi forces, saying its mission served in part as a counterbalance to Iran's influence.[caption id="attachment_22486" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Houthi followers hold up posters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a demonstration to commemorate Ashura in Sanaa, Yemen October 12, 2016 REUTERS[/caption]
Since launching its campaign, the Saudi-led coalition retook the port city of Aden and lands in southern Yemen. However, Sanaa and the Houthi heartland of northern Yemen remain held by the rebels. A ground offensive to retake the capital, which likely would involve street-by-street fighting and heavy casualties, appears unlikely. Instead, the Saudi-led campaign has relied on airstrikes. Those airstrikes, however, have proven deadly for civilians. A United Nations report said coalition airstrikes were responsible for 60% of civilian deaths over a yearlong span starting in July 2015.
Why has the US ruling party announced a physical war against Yemen on Wednesday and a cyber war against Russia today?October 14, 2016
The proliferation of US wars under Obama shows why fecklessness is always more dangerous than Bush's "war mongering" https://t.co/FoypV3iAhJ — Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) October 16, 2016
The USS Mason, an American destroyer, has come under missile fire twice in recent days in the Red Sea from Houthi-held territory in Yemen, according to the US Navy. In response, the Navy said it fired Tomahawk missiles at three coastal radar sites held by the Houthis - the first direct American attack in the war. The US also says the missiles fired by the Houthis appear to be Iranian, further internationalising the conflict. While Iran denies arming the Houthis, the Navy says it has intercepted several boats carrying Iranian weapons likely heading for Yemen since the conflict began.
The US attack on the Houthis came 16 years to the day al-Qaeda militants in Yemen bombed the USS Cole, killing 17 American sailors. Though against a different enemy now, the missile strike comes as al-Qaeda holds territory in eastern Yemen amid the vacuum created by the civil war. The Islamic State group has a presence as well. The strike also suggests any further attack on US warships will draw retaliatory American fire. And while backing away from helping the Saudi-led coalition, the US still sells billions of dollars' worth of weaponry to the kingdom. Saleh, Yemen's former president, once described the challenge of governing Yemen as "dancing on the heads of snakes." Now it seems the US faces the same dance in Yemen, with partners it can't ignore.