The U.S. military continues strikes in attempts to deter Houthi fighters in Yemen
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Missiles are flying into and out of Yemen today. The U.S. military is trying to put an end to attacks by Houthi fighters in Yemen who were targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is covering this story. Hey, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What's the latest on these reports of renewed fighting in Yemen?
MYRE: Yeah, the U.S. Navy struck before dawn, and it says it destroyed four Houthi ballistic missiles that were intended for use against commercial ships in the Red Sea. Now, this information is coming from a U.S. defense official, and this marks the third such U.S. strike since last week. However, the U.S. official acknowledged that, hours after the U.S. strike, the Houthis did manage to successfully launch a missile, and it hit a Greek-owned commercial ship. The ship suffered limited damage. None of the crew was hurt. The vessel remained seaworthy, and it carried on with its journey in the Red Sea.
SHAPIRO: Right now, the U.S. and the Houthis are firing these missiles at some distance from each other. What's the risk of escalation?
MYRE: Well, there clearly are risk (ph), and we got a sense of that today from a separate incident. We're just getting the details today. But last Thursday, the U.S. Navy forces staged a nighttime raid, and they boarded a sailing ship, a dhow, in the waters off the coast of Somalia. The U.S. military says it found components for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles made by Iran and headed for the Houthis in Yemen. And during this operation, one U.S. Navy SEAL fell into the rough waters. Another jumped in and tried to save him. This is according to U.S. military officials, who say that both of those Navy SEALs are still missing.
SHAPIRO: Is there any evidence that these strikes by the U.S. and the U.K. have deterred the Houthis in the few days since they started?
MYRE: Yeah, Ari, it's just too early to tell right now. The U.S. and Britain did carry out this first round of strikes early Friday, and it was a very heavy round of strikes. The hope was the Houthis would get the message and would stop attacking commercial ships that are traveling through this very critical sea lane. Now, the Houthis have been doing this for two months. They say it's a show of solidarity with the Palestinians facing Israeli attacks in Gaza. The U.S. says the Houthis have lost some of their abilities to carry out these attacks in the past few days. But, clearly, the Houthis still have capacity to carry out missile launches, and we just can't tell at this juncture whether the U.S. campaign will force them to stop.
SHAPIRO: Yemen is a poor country. It's been in a civil war for years. It has a lot of domestic problems. How are the Houthis getting this sustained supply of missiles that allows them to disrupt international shipping?
MYRE: Ari, the one-word answer is Iran. Iran supported the Houthis for years during the civil war you mentioned. This helped the Houthis emerge as the strongest military force in Yemen. The U.S. says Iran is now supplying the Houthis with weapons and intelligence to carry out these attacks. And Iran has this proxy network that it supports throughout the region. It also includes Hamas, which is fighting the Israelis in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is also trading fire with Israel. Iran helps all these groups fights fight, and, by design, Iran rarely gets directly involved itself.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks, Greg.
MYRE: Sure thing, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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