The White House on Friday accused Iran of helping to plan Houthi attacks against cargo vessels during the Israel-Hamas war.
“We know that Iran was deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This is consistent with Iran’s long-term materiel support and encouragement of the Houthis’ destabilizing actions in the region,” White House national security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
The Iranian terrorist proxy in Yemen has undertaken an offensive against maritime trade in the Bab el-Mandeb strait since mid-November, engaging in numerous anti-ship drone and missile attacks and acts of piracy against commercial and military vessels.
Since declaring their support for the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza in its war against Israel sparked by the Oct. 7 massacre in the northwestern Negev, the Houthis have also attempted regular long-range missile and drone attacks aimed at Israel.
Major shipping companies have responded to the threat by rerouting vessels from the Suez Canal-Red Sea-Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint route to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, a much longer journey.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported overnight Friday that the USS Laboon on Friday intercepted four drones from Houthi-controlled Yemen territory heading towards the American destroyer deployed in the Red Sea.
CENTOM also said that two merchant ships were targeted with attack drones on Friday. A Norwegian-registered chemical and oil tanker reported a near miss of a Houthi drone and a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker reported a hit from a Houthi drone with no injuries.
The USS Laboon responded to the distress call from the ships, which the U.S. military said were the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi terrorists since Oct. 17.
Additionally, CENTCOM said that “two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles.”
The USS Laboon is patrolling the Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational force to counter the maritime threat posed by Iran-backed Houthi terrorists in Yemen that the U.S. announced last week.
“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Watson added.
Iranian drone strike hits tanker near India
A drone strike “fired from Iran” damaged a Japanese-owned chemical tanker off the coast of India on Saturday, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Jerusalem also believes that Tehran was directly behind the attack on the Liberian-flagged and Netherlands-operated vessel with an Indian crew.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dutch company operating the MV Chem Pluto “is connected to Israeli shipping tycoon Idan Ofer.” It was on its way from Saudi Arabia to India when the attack occurred some 230 miles off the coast of India.
Cameron: Iran a ‘malign influence’
“Iran is a thoroughly malign influence in the region and in the world—there’s no doubt about that,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in an interview published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Cameron echoed the White House’s assessment of Iranian involvement in the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.
He continued, “You’ve got the Houthis, you’ve got Hezbollah, you’ve got the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq that have actually been attacking British and American bases, troops. And, of course, Hamas.
“So you’ve got all of these proxies, and I think it’s incredibly important that, first of all, Iran receives an incredibly clear message that this escalation will not be tolerated,” Cameron said.