A Saudi frigate was attacked by Yemeni rebels in the Red Sea on Monday. Now Fox News is reporting that the attack, which left two Saudi sailors dead and three wounded, may have been intended for a US Navy warship.
The Saudi ship was originally believed to have been hit by a missile fired by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Based on a video of the attack, officials now believe that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber in a small boat. This is similar to the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 which was carried out in the Yemeni port of Aden and killed 17 US sailors.
Fox reports that on the video of Monday’s attack, a voice can be heard shouting in Arabic, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to the Jews.” The recording prompted US defense analysts to believe that the attack may have been carried out as a practice run for an attack on a US ship or that the Saudi ship may have been misidentified as an American ship.
American ships do inhabit the Red Sea waters near Yemen. Last October, the USS Mason and the USS Ponce were attacked by anti-ship missiles in the same area. The USNI News reported that the Mason fired three defensive SM-2 missiles and a single Evolved Seasparrow missile to destroy the attacking Houthi missiles.
It is also possible that Monday’s attack was meant for the Saudi ship. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Gulf states in an intervention in Yemen to support Yemen’s government in its civil war. Yemen’s government is fighting al-Qaeda as well as the Houthi tribesmen, who are backed by Iran.
If Iran uses its proxy forces to attack an American ship, it would be a dramatic escalation scarcely a week after President Trump’s inauguration. The suicide attack came just as Iran launched a medium-range missile test in violation of President Obama’s nuclear deal and a UN resolution.