The Islamic Republic of Iran is “very directly involved” in Houthi ship attacks United States Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, head of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, told The Associated Press Monday.
Vice Admiral Cooper stopped short of saying Tehran directed individual attacks by the Houthis in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. He did, however, state that attacks connected with Tehran have grown from previously threatening the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz into waters across the entire Middle East region.
“The Iranian regime has cultivated a client in Yemen – the Houthis – who they will continue to use to squeeze and/or leverage Israel, U.S. Arab allies (i.e., Egypt and Saudi Arabia), and the global economy, whenever they deem it is necessary to pursue certain outcomes or project their power,” explained Eric James Bordenkircher, researcher at the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA) Center for Middle East Development. “Any future flare up between the Palestinians and the Israelis or some other regional development will likely elicit a similar response by the Houthis at the entrance to the Red Sea,” he told The Foreign Desk.
“Clearly, the Houthi actions, probably in terms of their attacks on merchant shipping, are the most significant that we’ve seen in two generations,” Cooper told the AP in a telephone interview. “The facts simply are that they’re attacking the international community; thus, the international response I think you’ve seen,” he added.
The Navy commander explained that the threat from the Islamic Republic’s terrorist proxies and its provision of weapons extended from the Red Sea out to the far reaches of the Indian Ocean. “What I’ll say is Iran is clearly funding, they’re resourcing, they are supplying, and they’re providing training,” Cooper told the AP. “They’re obviously very directly involved. There’s no secret there,” he added.
The Houthis have announced that they have attacked an American-flagged vessel, something that the 5th Fleet dismissed as “patently false.” Cooper explained that the ship attacks striking the Mideast were the worst since the Tanker War of the 1980s during the infamous Iran-Iraq war.
In a recorded address to the world, Houthi military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Saree claimed an attack in the Gulf of Aden on the Ocean Jazz, a U.S.-flagged ship managed by Seabulk, a company in Florida.
The 5th Fleet issued an online statement dismissing the Houthi’s address, describing it as “patently false.” The 5th Fleet “has maintained constant communications with M/V Ocean Jazz throughout its safe transit,” the statement read.
Cooper noted that under his command of the 5th Fleet, the naval force created Task Force 59, a drone fleet to increase its patrol of waterways in the region.
The drones have provided the 5th Fleet with around 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers) of access to Middle East waters that the Navy could not keep up with. Such efforts, according to Cooper, help the U.S. in its efforts to counter suspected drug and weapons shipments.
American forces recently seized Iranian-made missile parts and other weaponry from a ship bound for the Houthis in a raid that saw two Navy SEALs go missing and are now believed to be dead, according to the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM).
“The Houthis will continue to operate in this manner because they have an external patron in Iran (financially and politically) who they believe has their back, making them less amenable to compromise,” Bordenkircher explained.
Following the Oct. 7 massacre at the hands of Hamas terrorists against the Jewish state of Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased its support for terrorist groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to attack American and Israeli forces and generate a broader conflict in the region. Despite facing international condemnation, Iran continues to sponsor the Houthis and other terrorist organizations without any serious repercussions.
Related Story: Houthis Want More Iran Weapons to Continue Red Sea Attacks