U.S. officials are frustrated with the Biden administration's response to repeated attacks by Yemen's Houthis on ships in the Red Sea, Politico reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, officials were particularly worried about a weekend strike on three shipping vessels, which lasted hours and elicited a response from Navy destroyer USS Carney. They expressed concerns that the administration was downplaying the significant threat posed to U.S. forces. The Houthis have vowed to target ships with connections to Israel.
The Carney detected a ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer. The missile hit near the ship, the U.S. said.
About 30 minutes later, the Unity Explorer was hit by a missile. While responding to its distress call, the Carney shot down another incoming drone. Central Command said the Unity Explorer sustained minor damage from the missile. Two other commercial ships, the Panamanian-flagged bulk carriers Number 9 and Sophie II, were both struck by missiles.
The Carney responded to distress calls during the strike and shot down three drones, one of which, headed its way, although it’s not clear if the destroyer was the target, Central Command said.
“If our ships see something is coming near them or toward them, they are going to assess it as a threat and shoot it down,” one U.S. Department of Defense official told Politico on condition of anonymity, adding that “You’d be hard-pressed to find another time” U.S. ships have been this challenged in the region.
Another official said the U.S. was downplaying the threat so as not to cause further unnecessary escalation. Another DOD official said the U.S. would decide to respond to Houthi aggressions at the time and place it finds suitable.
Saudi media reported that explosions were heard in Yemen's capital of Sana'a overnight Tuesday. A similar explosion also reported by Saudi media last week was attributed to an Israeli strike. Israel denied the reports.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Monday that Washington has "every reason to believe that these attacks, while they were launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran," a claim Iran denied.
Sullivan said the U.S. was holding discussions with other nations about deploying a naval force to ensure the safety of Red Sea shipping routes.